Friday, October 21, 2016

Jackson on Popper on materialism


While we’re on the subject of mind-body interaction, let’s take a look at Frank Jackson’s article on Karl Popper’s philosophy of mind in the new Cambridge Companion to Popper, edited by Jeremy Shearmur and Geoffrey Stokes.  Popper was a dualist of sorts, and Jackson’s focus is on the role Popper’s “World 3” concept and the issue of causal interaction played in his critique of materialism.

First, a brief summary of the World 3 idea (which I discussed in a post some years back).  Popper distinguished between three “worlds” or compartments of reality.  World 1 is the realm of physical objects and processes, such as tables and chairs, rocks and trees, molecules and atoms, stars and galaxies.  World 2 is the realm of thoughts, experiences, and mental phenomena in general.  World 3 is the realm of concepts, theories, arguments, stories, institutions, and other abstractions that have a kind of reality over and above both the physical entities that represent them and the thoughts we have about them.  For example, the Pythagorean theorem and the theory of relativity don’t go out of existence when we stop thinking about them and would not go out of existence even if all the books and articles discussing them were destroyed.

Popper’s World 3 is in some respects reminiscent of Plato’s realm of the Forms, but differs in that Popper takes World 3 to be something man-made.  As I noted in the earlier post just linked to, this makes his positon at least somewhat comparable the Aristotelian realist (as opposed to Platonic realist) view that universals are abstracted by the mind from the concrete objects that instantiate them rather than pre-existing such abstraction.

Naturally, all of this raises questions about the ontological status of the three Worlds, and Popper’s view is that they are irreducibly different, which is one reason he is not a materialist.  One reason this irreducibility would support a rejection of materialism is that if World 3 objects are abstract entities rather than material objects or processes, then it is false to say, as the materialist does, that the material world is all that exists.

Now, as Jackson notes, a materialist could respond to this by modifying his materialism.  He could allow that there are immaterial or abstract objects and thus admit that the material world is not all that exists, but still insist that the mind is entirely material.  That is to say, he could argue that World 2 is reducible to World 1 even if World 3 is not.  But as Jackson also notes, Popper thinks that there is a problem with this strategy posed by the existence of causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Materialists, of course, often claim that their position can better account for such interaction than Cartesian dualism can.  Consider the case of a sensation of pain which is caused by damage to the body and in turn causes wincing and moaning.  If this sensation occurs in a Cartesian res cogitans, the materialist says, then we have to face the mystery of how an immaterial substance gets into causal contact with a material substance like the body.  But if we suppose that the sensation is just a kind of brain process, then (the argument continues) its causal interaction with the rest of the body is no more mysterious than is the causal interaction between any other two physical things. 

Popper’s response is that at least some World 2 entities, and indeed the most interesting ones, involve (as a sensation of pain does not) causal relations to World 3 entities no less than to World 1 entities.  For example, when you entertain a thought about the Pythagorean theorem and then write the theorem down on a piece of paper, we have a causal relationship between a World 1 entity (the paper) and a World 2 entity (your thought) but also a World 3 entity (the theorem).  And since the World 3 entity is immaterial, the materialist is hardly going to have a better time accounting for its relationship to World 1 than the dualist has accounting for the relationship between World 2 and World 1.  And of course, there are a great many mental states that involve relations to World 3 entities (theories, concepts, arguments, etc.).  Hence the materialist claim to be better able to account for mind-body interaction is greatly oversold.

A related problem for materialism posed by World 3 is that the materialist typically holds that World 1 is causally closed.  Hence, since we interact causally with other World 1 objects, we must (the materialist concludes) be part of World 1.  Yet since World 3 entities influence World 1, World 1 cannot be causally closed after all.  Thus does a central argument for materialism collapse.  There is no reason to insist on causal grounds that World 2 must be material if we know that World 3 is immaterial and yet causally interacts with World 1. 

Obviously a materialist could try to respond by simply denying the reality of World 3, but something like World 3 must be accepted on pain of taking on all the problems afflicting nominalism, conceptualism, etc.  Jackson suggests another response, but it is (with all due respect to Jackson) a very bad one.  He writes:

[I]t is not at all obvious that there is a special problem for materialism here.  Is it easier to understand how a state in ectoplasm’s standing in a relation to an abstract entity can have causal effects in World 1 than it is to understand how a state of a material brain standing in such a relation can have causal effects in World 1?  How could the switch from material to ectoplasmic instantiation help?  (p. 279)

This seems to have become a stock move among contemporary materialists.  For any dualist argument to the effect that qualia, or the intentional content of a thought, or whatever cannot be accounted for in material terms, the materialist responds that the same arguments would, if correct, show also that these mental phenomena cannot be accounted for in terms of the “ectoplasm” allegedly posited by the dualist. 

The trouble with this, of course, is that no prominent dualist philosopher (nor any non-prominent one, as far as I can tell) is in fact committed to the existence of “ectoplasm,” whatever that is supposed to be.  This is a straw man.

I have in earlier posts discussed the way a straw man of this sort has been attacked by Daniel Stoljar and by Paul Churchland.  (In Churchland’s case, ironically, his remarks were aimed at the “knowledge argument” famously defended by Jackson when he was still a dualist.)  The basic idea of the straw man is that dualists (so the story goes) posit the existence of a kind of “stuff” that is not a material kind of stuff insofar as it is intangible, invisible, tasteless, odorless, etc., but which is nevertheless in other respects somewhat like a material thing in that it is made up of components (albeit non-physical ones) which are causally related in various ways, instantiates mental properties in something like the way the materialist thinks the brain instantiates them (only without being material), and so on.  This purported “ectoplasmic” “stuff” is, in other words, thought of as a kind of non-material substrate in which mental attributes inhere or a non-material container in which they are placed.  The materialist then asks why positing a non-material stuff, substrate, or container is any more helpful than positing a material stuff, substrate, or container.  For wouldn’t the arguments that the dualist says show that mental attributes can come apart from the latter also show that mental attributes can come apart from the former?

As I have noted before, the problem is that this is precisely not what any prominent dualist philosopher thinks the mind is, and no one who has carefully read what thinkers of the past like Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz et al. and the contemporary writers influenced by them have actually written could suppose that it is. 

Descartes, for example, does not think that the res cogitans is a kind of “stuff” or container or substrate in which mental properties inhere and which could intelligibly exist apart from them.  He doesn’t think that the mind has thought.  He thinks that the mind is thought.  That is its very essence, that without which it could not be.  He is concerned precisely to deny that there is any metaphysical daylight whatsoever between the res cogitans on the one hand, and thought on the other, by which the one could intelligibly be said to exist apart from the other.  He thinks that the mind is in this sense a simple rather than a composite substance, i.e. rather than something made of parts that could come apart.  Accordingly, it simply misses his point entirely to suggest that the res cogitans is “made of” anything (“ectoplasm” or otherwise), that it might exist without “instantiating” its mental attributes, etc.

Of course, one might raise various questions and objections to all this.  But the point is that until one understands what Descartes is actually saying, one has not even engaged with him much less refuted him.  And the same thing is true of dualists influenced by Descartes, from Leibniz to Popper to contemporary Cartesians. 

Aquinas and other Scholastic thinkers who regard the intellect as incorporeal also hold to the simplicity of the soul (though of course the way they would spell this out would differ given the difference between Scholastic and rationalist conceptions of substance, essence, etc.).  In yet other ways too the position defended by Thomists and other Scholastic writers is simply nothing remotely like the straw man attacked under the “ectoplasm” label. 

For example (and as I discussed in an earlier post) for Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy, the divide between the material and the immaterial is not all-or-nothing and it does not essentially have to do with what kind of “stuff” a thing is made out of.  Matter, in Aristotelian-Thomistic thinking, is essentially that which ties form (which is otherwise universal) down to a particular thing, time, and place; it is that which accounts for a thing’s changeability and imperfection; and so on.  Matter qua matter thus corresponds to potentiality, particularity, multiplicity, changeability, and imperfection.  Since these characteristics are susceptible of degrees, there is a sense in which materiality and immateriality can come in degrees.  The more something exhibits potentiality, particularity, multiplicity, changeability, and/or imperfection, the more matter-like it is.  The more something exhibits actuality, universality, unity, permanence, and/or perfection, the more immaterial it is. 

In this connection, it is interesting that Jackson and materialists in general tend, despite their materialism, to take realism about universals and other abstract objects more seriously than they do dualism.  For example, no one seems to think it a good response to such realism to characterize abstract objects as made of “ectoplasm” or the like.  It seems clear enough to all sides that this would be a silly objection aimed at a caricature.  In classical (Platonic, Aristotelian, and Scholastic) philosophy, however, the ontological status of universals and the immateriality of the intellect are very closely connected topics.  For Aristotle and Aquinas, for example, to have an intellect essentially just is to be capable of taking on a form without the particularizing features associated with specific individual things that have the form.  It isn’t a question of the form coming to be instantiated in some mysterious ectoplasmic kind of stuff, because it isn’t a question of its being instantiated at all, in any kind of stuff. 

Of course, the contemporary philosopher will find it hard to understand what is going on in such accounts if it isn’t a question of what sort of “stuff” the mind is “made of,” but that’s precisely the point.  The conceptual universe inhabited by older writers is very different from that taken for granted by contemporary academic philosophers, and the latter have a regrettable tendency to read their own basic assumptions back into older writers rather than taking the trouble to try to understanding the latter in their own terms.

Anyway, in fairness, this does take us far beyond anything Popper was committed to.  And there is in any case other and more interesting stuff in Jackson’s essay, to which I refer the interested reader.  One thing that is surprisingly missing, however, is any discussion of what I take to be Popper’s most interesting argument against materialism, to the effect that there can in principle be no causal account of the intentionality of language and thought.  I discuss this argument in my paper “Hayek, Popper, and the Causal Theory of the Mind,” which is reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays.

Related posts:



Bühler? Bühler? [Popper on the four functions of language]

Some brief arguments for dualism, Part V [On one of Popper’s anti-materialist arguments]

When Frank jilted Mary [On Jackson’s “knowledge argument”]

127 comments:

Mr. Green said...

But if we suppose that the sensation is just a kind of brain process, then (the argument continues) its causal interaction with the rest of the body is no more mysterious than is the causal interaction between any other two physical things.

That certainly is what materialists like to say. But here's a fun party trick: the next time you hear a materialist say it, just ask him to explain how two physical things interact….

Justin said...

I'm confused. How could Descartes think that the mind just *is* thought when he also thought that a mind is a *substance* which *has* or *possesses* the *attribute* of thought, and when he thought that thoughts like being happy or seeing red just are 'modifications' or 'modes' which inhere within or characterize this substance? Of course Descartes thought that the mind is entirely simple or non-composite in nature, unlike an extended substance, because he intuited that the mind must constitute a transcendental unity of apperception. But if the res cogitans or 'thinking thing' which is the mind just is thought itself, then this would imply that thought is being thought by thought itself.

Don Jindra said...

"A related problem for materialism posed by World 3 is that the materialist typically holds that World 1 is causally closed. Hence, since we interact causally with other World 1 objects, we must (the materialist concludes) be part of World 1. Yet since World 3 entities influence World 1, World 1 cannot be causally closed after all."

I can only speak for my material self, but I see no problem here. Yes, World 1 is causally closed. So if it's closed and "World 3" interacts with World 1, "World 3" must be part of World 1. That's logic. Like all logic, it's only as true as its assumptions.

Nevertheless, let's suppose World 3 is immaterial and the Theory of Relativity and Hamlet are part of that world. Did Hamlet exist prior to Shakespeare? Shakespeare’s Cardenio is lost. It once existed. It seems to exist no more.

To the extent that the Theory of Relativity reflects nature, it has a life of its own, so to speak. But it would not exist at all except for the true book of nature and Einstein's desire to better understand it. Models have no eternal existence. They exist simply because the material world put those imperfect notions into human heads. When we go, the models will suffer the same fate as Shakespeare’s Cardenio and Homer's Margites. So I see no reason to think World 3 has an existence outside the material us.

Callum said...

Because they generally think the universe is comprised of events instead of substances? (Therefore supporting humean like 'counterfactual' theories of causation?)

Or was the joke less nuanced!

Callum said...

But surely you think mathematical proofs like Pythagoras theorem has an existence outside a material us? Humans didnt invent it, did they? They couldnt have changed it even if we wanted to.

But then, if it is mind independent and was true of triangles beford humans even existed, it will be true after humans go extinct, wouldnt it?

jps said...

I think the issue with 'ectoplasm' arises because all materialists must conceptualise whatever exists as some kind of substance, stuff or thing. That is actually a consequence of the naturalist stance of 'intelligent subject situated in domain of objects'. Everything real has to be understandable as something in that domain, as that is what 'existence' means.

Whereas, conceptual entities like Pythagoras' theorem don't actually exist at all, except for in a mind capable of grasping rational relationships. In fact logic generally consists only of the relationships of ideas. So logic is not real in the sense that materialists wish to portray it, as it is not 'out there somewhere'. They way they rationalise it, is that it is 'in the mind', and the mind, being neurons etc, is physical, so that is the sense in which such things can be said to be physical.

But the entire domain of laws, logic, natural numbers and much else besides, comprise what I think the pre-moderns would categorise as 'intelligible objects' - that is, objects that the mind alone can grasp. But at the same time, they're not dependent on your or my mind; so they are at once both mind-dependent, being only perceptible to a rational intellect, yet also not only or simply 'in the mind'. Any mind will have to find the same basic ideas; but materialism (and naturalism for that matter) has no way of conceiving of that mode of existence (modes of existence having been rejected by modern philosophy).

See also Tyler Burge, Frege on Knowing the Third Realm, Mind Vol. 101 404 October 1992; also Augustine and Intelligible Objects, Cambridge Companion to Augustine.

bmiller said...

Don Jindra


"Nevertheless, let's suppose World 3 is immaterial and the Theory of Relativity and Hamlet are part of that world."

First, I think you are conflating World 2 with World 3 here with the introduction of Shakespeare and his writings.

Second, you say:
"To the extent that the Theory of Relativity reflects nature, it has a life of its own, so to speak. But it would not exist at all except for the true book of nature and Einstein's desire to better understand it."

What do you consider "the true book of nature"? Is that book immaterial?






Glenn said...

DJ,

[I]f [World 1 is] closed and "World 3" interacts with World 1, "World 3" must be part of World 1. That's logic.

If World 3 is part of World 1, then World 3 is subset of World 1. Yet a rational reader attending to what Popper has to say about each of World 1, World 2 and World 3 can see that each world as Popper defines and discusses it is a set, and that no one of the three worlds is a subset of either of the other two worlds. So, one has to wonder: what kind of logic justifies the conversion of a non-subset into a subset?

Now, it is true that Popper allows that many objects belonging to World 3 also belong to World 1. Even so, it takes more than one set intersecting with another set for the one set to be a subset of the other set. So, again, one has to wonder: what kind of logic justifies the conversion of a non-subset into a subset?

Like all logic, it's only as true as its assumptions.

What assumptions underpin that logic which justifies the conversion of a non-subset into a subset?

Glenn said...

DJ,

Did Hamlet exist prior to Shakespeare?

Has any created thing existed as such in actuality prior to its creation? Of course not.

Has Hamlet failed to survive his finite creator? Of course not.

Now, if you can find someone [1] willing to give Hamlet (the character, not the text) an MRI, I'll foot the bill [2].

- - - -

[1] By 'someone' I mean 'some rational person'.

[2] I haven't any anxiety that I might be called upon to pony up.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Ed,

Thanks for an interesting article. You write:

"This seems to have become a stock move among contemporary materialists. For any dualist argument to the effect that qualia, or the intentional content of a thought, or whatever cannot be accounted for in material terms, the materialist responds that the same arguments would, if correct, show also that these mental phenomena cannot be accounted for in terms of the "ectoplasm" allegedly posited by the dualist."

I agree that the jibe about ectoplasm basically amounts to attacking a straw man, but I do think that when arguing for dualism, it's not enough to show that materialism cannot account for some phenomenon; one also has to show that dualism can do a better job of explaining it.

So I'd like to ask a question about qualia which has been bugging me for more than three decades. Classical theists believe that (a) God invented qualia (or more precisely, invented beings with the capacity to experience qualia), and (b) that God is impassible, and has no experiences - which leads me to ask: how on earth did God dream them up, in the first place?

How did God dream up the smell of ammonia, the taste of coffee, the color red or the sound of music, if He can't experience any of these things Himself?

Tom Simon said...

Vincent Torley,

You could ask the same question about anything. How did God dream up the ammonia, the coffee, red things, and sound itself, given that prior to the creation of the universe, none of those things had ever existed before? If you can accept creation ex nihilo of things, you can accept creation ex nihilo of qualia.

Indeed, the qualia pose less of a problem. As you yourself point out, ex hypothesi, God created beings capable of experiencing qualia. The fact that we have experiences at all means that qualia must exist; our senses must report something to us.

So how does God, as it were, choose the particular qualia associated with each object? Presumably in the way God is said to know anything at all: he has a perfect intellectual knowledge of his creation, and does not need to experience it. The often-used analogy of the writer and his work is helpful here. Shakespeare knows Hamlet, even though he has never had the experience of meeting Hamlet. He knows Hamlet’s qualia in a different way, of course, since the qualia of Hamlet in a particular parformance arise from a particular actor, and as such are beyond Shakespeare’s direct creative control. But that does not invalidate the argument; it merely shows the limits of the analogy.

We could instead take an example not written for the stage. Tolkien had never met a hobbit, and never saw the terrible vision of the ring of fire that the One Ring slowly imprinted on the mind of its unfortunate bearer. He necessarily could not know Frodo or Frodo’s thoughts by direct experience, since he could not himself enter the book. But he knew these things by intellection, for it was his book and he knew what he had put in it.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Tom Simon,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'd like to take issue with a couple of assertions you make.

First, you argue that since God can create things ex nihilo, He can surely create qualia. I don't think that follows. If the properties of a thing can be exhaustively described in third-person terminology, then the creation of that thing by a Being Who is incapable of having experiences is no great mystery. If we take a simple substance like copper, for instance, one could argue that the atomic theory of chemistry should be able to explain all of its properties. But qualia are, by their very nature, incapable of being described, except in first person terminology.

Second, you suggest that God might know what experiences his creatures have in a manner analogous to the way in which a writer knows what his characters experience. I'm afraid I have to disagree, for two reasons. For one thing, even a perfectly detailed description of a character's surroundings fails to fully specify the contents of a character's qualia. Take J.K. Rowling's description of number four Privet Drive (where Harry Potter's aunt, uncle and cousin live). Even if the street where Harry lived were described down to the last detail, it would still tell us nothing about what Harry experiences when he looks out his window - let alone how he feels.

Now, you might reply that at least J.K. Rowling knows how Harry felt: after all, she is the author of the story. But even if her story were specified down to the last detail, inside her mind, including Harry's feelings, those feelings are derivative upon the fact that J.K. Rowling has had experiences of her own, in relevantly similar situations. As the author of the story, she can simply deem (by authorial fiat) that Harry has the kinds of experiences that she (by introspection) knows that she would have, were she placed in the same situation as Harry. No great mystery here.

For another thing, God is not like J.K. Rowling. If classical theism is correct, then God has no background of personal experiences to draw upon, when creating human beings. So when He deems that they should experience a certain quale (which my dictionary tells me is the singular of qualia) in situation X, then His only way of understanding that quale is: whatever it is that humans undergo in situation X. But that's third-person knowledge, not first-person knowledge. God cannot, as it were, pluck a quale [such as the experience of red] out of the air and decree that this is what we should experience when our eyes are subjected to electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength of 635 to 700 nanometers.

Which brings me to my final point. If God's knowledge of our qualia is purely by intellection, as you suggest, then I put it to you that either it is incomplete (in which case God is like Mary in Frank Jackson's story - He would be surprised if He could see the world through our eyes), or it is complete, in which case first-person experiences can be reduced to third-person descriptions, as materialistic mechanists contend. Neither option seems palatable.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

After boring you with this elaboration, please tell me if you still think I'm being unreasonable.

Our gracious host spent a significant portion of his post correcting what a dualist is and is not. He quite reasonable claimed a materialist cannot portray dualism in a way that misrepresents the dualist position. To do so is to argue with a straw man. I responded to a section that began, "A related problem for materialism posed by World 3 is ..." -- but it turns out that the problem is only a problem if the materialist accepts Popper's model in the first place. I'm merely saying that this materialist does not accept Popper's dualist model in the first place. IOW, if it's a straw man when a materialist misrepresents what it is to be a follower of Aquinas, it's also a straw man when a follower of Aquinas (or Popper) misrepresents what it is to be a materialist. If a problem does not exist for a dualist when the dualist does not consider a line of reasoning relevant to his own assumptions or lines of reasoning, then a problem does not exist for a materialist when the materialist does not consider a line of reasoning relevant to his own assumptions or lines of reasoning. It simply does not matter what Popper defines and discusses as sets. If he wants to make headway with me in a way that could possible be persuasive with me, it's incumbent upon him to either destroy my assumptions or start with them and show a contradiction. I have not read Popper on this subject. But I see no evidence from the opinion piece that Popper has done either. Therefore the "related problem" does not exist in me, which is kind of interesting when we consider the topic itself is the nature of existence.



If you agree no "created thing existed as such in actuality prior to its creation," then how can that same created thing exist when the media for its existence (minds of men) ceases to exist? An MRI is far too crude to find Hamlet within me today. But someday we will have an instrument that will be able to find it within someone like me. (Wow, I have to wrap my head around the dark sci-fi possibilities there.)

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

There was a cut&paste/editing issue with some of your text I quoted above. Sorry.



bmiller,

"I think you are conflating World 2 with World 3 here with the introduction of Shakespeare and his writings."

I also think it's odd to throw Shakespeare in with the Pythagorean Theorem. But I'm following the text: "World 3 is the realm of concepts, theories, arguments, stories, institutions, and other abstractions that have a kind of reality over and above both the physical entities that represent them and the thoughts we have about them." I note that Hamlet is a story and is by this definition in World 3.

What do I consider "the true book of nature"? Nature itself. The material world. The unfiltered, objective stuff we all have equal access to, at least in theory.


Callum,

The Pythagorean theorem has no existence outside us. It deals with perfect triangles -- that is, with ideals that do not exist in nature. We did invent that ideal. That ideal and all things dealing with that ideal will disappear with us (unless independently invented by extraterrestrials.)

Glenn said...

DJ,

I responded to a section that began, "A related problem for materialism posed by World 3 is ..." -- but it turns out that the problem is only a problem if the materialist accepts Popper's model in the first place. I'm merely saying that this materialist does not accept Popper's dualist model in the first place.

1. By the same token, a notice of intent to audit issued by the IRS is a problem for a crooked businessman if and only if the crooked businessman accepts the authority of the IRS to audit him in the first place. Uh-huh.

2. That which appears to be a problem, and genuinely is a problem, does not cease to be a problem simply because a person is unaware of it, rejects it, ignores it, denies it or willfully blinds himself to it.

3. If Popper's model is a reasonably accurate accounting, portrayal or representation of how things actually are, then the problem it presents for the materialist remains a problem for him even while he's busy being unaware of, rejecting, ignoring, denying or willfully blinding himself to it.

4. Popper's model is a pluralist model, not a dualist model. (Since his model deals with three worlds rather than two, one needn’t have read Popper in order to know that.)

5. Lastly, and to quote Dr. Feser, "Obviously a materialist could try to respond by simply denying the reality of World 3, but something like World 3 must be accepted on pain of taking on all the problems afflicting nominalism, conceptualism, etc."

If he wants to make headway with me in a way that could possible be persuasive with me, it's incumbent upon him to either destroy my assumptions or start with them and show a contradiction. I have not read Popper on this subject. But I see no evidence from the opinion piece that Popper has done either.

1. I hardly think it likely your recalcitrance will be the cause of loss of sleep around here.

2. That (poor attempt at humor) aside, others have pointed to the contradictions which if not immediately then ultimately show their ugly mugs when materialism or something materialism-like is taken as a starting point. I leave it to you to satisfy your natural curiosity as to where such efforts by one or more others might be found.

3. Lastly, here is what Popper himself has said, and which may be taken (in a manner of speaking at least) as his response to you:

"There are of course views of the universe other than the two views here described - materialism or physicalist monism on the one hand, and dualism on the other. (There is, more especially, a Berkeleyan monism of experiences.) However, I shall confine my critical discussion to those two views which I have just briefly sketched: to materialism or physicalism, because it is widely held by contemporary philosophers; and to dualism because it is, I think, the view of common sense. I do not pretend that I can refute these two views; but I can challenge them, by offering and defending a pluralist view."

Michel Accad said...

Vincent,

"If we take a simple substance like copper, for instance, one could argue that the atomic theory of chemistry should be able to explain all of its properties."

For the scholastic, even a simple substance like copper is a composite of prime matter and substantial form, and therefore not exhaustible explained by the atomic theory.

Michel Accad said...

"Exhaustibly..."

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

"By the same token, a notice of intent to audit issued by the IRS is a problem for a crooked businessman if and only if the crooked businessman accepts the authority of the IRS to audit him in the first place. Uh-huh."

1) That's a very poor analogy. As citizens we are required to accept the laws as passed by legal authorities. There is no such requirement in debates on the nature of existence. In fact, the opposite is true in philosophy. An honest quest for truth requires one to be skeptical of the conventional wisdom. This isn't a modern opinion. This goes back to ancient Greece.

2) I could use the same poor analogy against the often repeated A-T claims that materialists or atheists attack a position you fellows do not hold.


"That which appears to be a problem, and genuinely is a problem, does not cease to be a problem simply because a person is unaware of it, rejects it, ignores it, denies it or willfully blinds himself to it."

True. But when the supposed problem is created out of thin air by mere definition or assumption, it has no substance, no reality.


"Lastly, and to quote Dr. Feser, 'Obviously a materialist could try to respond by simply denying the reality of World 3, but something like World 3 must be accepted on pain of taking on all the problems afflicting nominalism, conceptualism, etc.'"

Yet I don't deny the reality of the stuff Popper puts arbitrarily put into "World 3." I deny it's in any way outside of World 1.


Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

Thanks for the handy link to Popper's lecture. I read about half. I was struck by the following said of materialists: "These memory traces may make them speak of the Fifth Symphony. The memory traces or engrams and the speech acts are physical: they do exist. But the Fifth Symphony as such just does not exist; although, admittedly, we often use language in such a way that we speak of the Fifth Symphony as if it were one of the existing things."

That brought to mind this passage from our gracious host: "Descartes, for example, does not think that the res cogitans is a kind of 'stuff' or container or substrate in which mental properties inhere and which could intelligibly exist apart from them. He doesn’t think that the mind has thought. He thinks that the mind is thought. That is its very essence, that without which it could not be."

I don't know the materialists Popper references. I will speak of only my own views. My view is that he gets my materialism wrong. He gets it wrong just like the unnamed materialists get Descartes wrong. The Fifth Symphony does exist. It just is the "memory traces" in the brain. A score and the notes played by the orchestra are merely a medium to transmit the real 5th from Beethoven to me. His "final cause" was not to put notes on a page or get the violinist to vibrate strings. It was to move the audience emotionally inside their own heads. I'm glad to say Beethoven's symphonies have an actual existence inside my head, and a very secure one.

Popper next delves into the problem of aesthetics. He asks, "can a work of art be great or marvellous as such? It will be clear that ... the objectivist view ... is closely linked to the view that there exists a world 3, and that there are world 3 objects.... [B]oth the materialist monist and the dualist seem to be bound to say that there is nothing objective about a work of art."

Well, not quite. Again I speak only for myself as one who has had many discussions on this issue with artistic acquaintances. I do believe in a "soft" objectivity in art (and morality). By soft, I mean that there is no absolute divine-like standard that exists for all people, all life-forms, throughout time. I mean that we are built to sense and grope through this world in certain, species-predefined ways. Culture can modify our reactions to a degree, but we are not individually infinitely malleable. The further we are pushed away from the natural standard, the tougher it is on us. In art we are naturally inclined to react to certain patterns. The three act structure in movies is an example of what I mean. There's little doubt in my mind that a movie structured like Die Hard is going to mean more to more people than a 2 hour movie structured like a Salvador Dali short. I think we are wired to respond in this way. It's not a cultural artifact. Human wiring is the objective standard although, admittedly and even beneficially, the wiring differs a little throughout the population. This is my view as a materialist. So I dispute Popper's suggestion that I'm "bound to say that there is nothing objective about a work of art." I don't think a dualist is bound either.

Vincent Torley said...

Hi Michael,

You write: "For the scholastic, even a simple substance like copper is a composite of prime matter and substantial form, and therefore not exhaustively explained by the atomic theory."

Point taken. When I referred to copper as a simple substance, I merely meant that it's an element, incapable of being broken down into simpler substances. If scholastics wish to argue that no physical substance is altogether, then that's no skin off my nose.

Glenn said...

DJ,

That's a very poor analogy.

It wasn't intended to be an analogy (which is why I began with 'By the same token' rather than "Analogously'). Nonetheless, you did subsequesntly agree with the point of what was implicitly said after that point had been made more explicit.

An honest quest for truth requires one to be skeptical of the conventional wisdom. This isn't a modern opinion. This goes back to ancient Greece.

Since conventional wisdom is a generally accepted theory or belief, and materialism is a generally accepted theory or belief, it follows that materialism is conventional wisdom. Since an honest quest for truth requires one to be skeptical of the conventional wisdom, it follows that you are required to be skeptical of the conventional wisdom, i.e., you are, if involved in an honest quest for truth, required to be skeptical of materialism.

"That which appears to be a problem, and genuinely is a problem, does not cease to be a problem simply because a person is unaware of it, rejects it, ignores it, denies it or willfully blinds himself to it."

True. But when the supposed problem is created out of thin air by mere definition or assumption, it has no substance, no reality.


Since you acknowledge that it is true that that which genuinely is a problem "does not cease to be a problem simply because...", and since that which genuinely is a problem has substance and reality, the subsequent remark about a problem which is merely supposed, and thus lacking in substance and reality, appears to be a pointless and useless addition to the acknowledgement.

"Lastly, and to quote Dr. Feser, 'Obviously a materialist could try to respond by simply denying the reality of World 3, but something like World 3 must be accepted on pain of taking on all the problems afflicting nominalism, conceptualism, etc.'"

Yet I don't deny the reality of the stuff Popper puts arbitrarily put into "World 3." I deny it's in any way outside of World 1.


Which is to say you take on "problems afflicting nominalism, conceptualism, etc."

The Fifth Symphony does exist. It just is the "memory traces" in the brain. A score and the notes played by the orchestra are merely a medium to transmit the real 5th from Beethoven to me.

Since a nemory trace is a trace of something, the thing of which there is a trace and the trace itself of that thing are not one and the same thing, i.e., they are separate entities. This being so, it is far from clear how a memory trace could be the thing of which it is a trace.

Popper next delves into the problem of aesthetics.... I dispute Popper's suggestion that I'm "bound to say that there is nothing objective about a work of art." I don't think a dualist is bound either.

1. Popper did not say that materialists and dualists are bound to say there is nothing objective about a work of art, but that they seem to be bound to say that.

2. Further, his use of the term 'objective', and the meaning he intends to convey through its use, is dependent on the separation of World 3 and World 1, i.e., is dependent on World 3 not being included in World 1. Since you deny that World 3 is not included in World 1, you deny Popper's use of the term 'objective'.

3. Since you deny Popper's use of the term, it looks like he was right after all (in one case at least).

- - - - -

Btw... nice writing.

Vincent Torley said...

Sorry. That should have read: "If scholastics wish to argue that no physical substance is altogether simple, then that's no skin off my nose."

jps said...

The 'atom' was what was supposed to be 'simple'. Now it's a zoo.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

According to Merriam-Webster, an analogy is likeness, similarity, resemblance, or similitude. According to American Heritage, "by the same token" means in like manner; similarly.

In my mind, similarity and similarly are kind of similar. Nevertheless, it's true that "by the same token" can be different than an analogy. So now it's my turn to jump on this "by the same token" bandwagon:

Folks here have no problem recasting a discussion on their terms. It could be a discussion on the cosmological argument. Some upstart wags his tongue: "If everything has a cause, what caused God?" The dude is unceremoniously pelted with rotten eggs. "None of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument!" While this rings in his ears he's dragged through a swamp of "per se" tar, feathered with potentiality, and blinded by pure actuality, aka, his Lord and Master. It doesn't matter that he never heard of any of these terms before, or even now accepts they have anything to do with his original question. The lesson is clear: You cannot argue with these "best-known proponents" unless you do it on their terms.

By the same token, if Popper, or someone of lesser stature, seeks out weakness in materialism by framing the argument in a way that does not represent materialism, or ignores what in means entirely, there is nothing that should stop me, as a proponent, from framing the argument in its proper context. I will not accept propositions or sets that are questionable. It's fair for me as well as for any proponent. I don't care what anyone might think about that especially when I know they exercise the same right themselves.

Moving on...

Is materialism conventional wisdom? What percentage of the population have no beliefs in the supernatural? Even among materialists, I don't quite fit. I don't want to pass judgment, but mostly they seem to be a bunch of rootless relativists, something I am not.

You missed the fact that I denied a genuine problem had been identified. From what I've seen, "problems afflicting nominalism" are not genuine problems either.

I admit "memory trace" is vague. But I was using Popper's language.

"Since you deny that World 3 is not included in World 1, you deny Popper's use of the term 'objective'."

To answer this I merely refer you to six paragraphs above.


Crude said...

The lesson is clear: You cannot argue with these "best-known proponents" unless you do it on their terms.

The lesson is that if you roll in asking people to defend an argument they haven't made (and in fact wouldn't make), they're going to call you out on it. The drama is over the freaking top here - 'unceremoniously pelted with rotten eggs' here cashes out to 'Is informed, with varying degrees of patience, why the argument they gave is irrelevant, and a bit of a load.'

If you get enough questions wrong on a physics exam, your professor will drag you by the hair from your seat and set you in front of the class with a dunce cap, loudly proclaiming for all to see your gross inadequacies, your naivete, crying out to the Platonic realm for your very soul to be put to flame for your transgressions. So long as all of this means 'Gives you a failing grade'.

By the same token, if Popper, or someone of lesser stature, seeks out weakness in materialism by framing the argument in a way that does not represent materialism, or ignores what in means entirely,

What's being given is a model to make sense of the world with regards to the mind and models, complete with the recognition that one can discard the model and collapse everything into 'world 1', and that there are problems one has to address if they frame things as 'it's world 1 turtles all the way down'.

The big issue here seems to be this clench-inducing objection that rejecting world 3 introduces 'problems', because the world-1-turtles advocate insists that there -are- no problems, and you're /implying and so on and so forth. A prominent philosopher weighs in.

Glenn said...

DJ,

According to Merriam-Webster, an analogy is likeness, similarity, resemblance, or similitude. According to American Heritage, "by the same token" means in like manner; similarly. In my mind, similarity and similarly are kind of similar. Nevertheless, it's true that "by the same token" can be different than an analogy.

1. According to the online edition of Merriam-Webster here, "by the same token" means "for the same reason".

2. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Second Edition here, "by the same token" means "In the same way, for the same reason" or "As a concomitant circumstance". In the same entry we find that the "phrase today is used in a general way to connect statements that have some logical association with one another."

So now it's my turn to jump on this "by the same token" bandwagon:

Folks here have no problem recasting a discussion on their terms. It could be a discussion on the cosmological argument. Some upstart wags his tongue: "If everything has a cause, what caused God?" The dude is unceremoniously pelted with rotten eggs. "None of the best-known proponents of the cosmological argument in the history of philosophy and theology ever gave this stupid argument!" While this rings in his ears he's dragged through a swamp of "per se" tar, feathered with potentiality, and blinded by pure actuality, aka, his Lord and Master. It doesn't matter that he never heard of any of these terms before, or even now accepts they have anything to do with his original question. The lesson is clear: You cannot argue with these "best-known proponents" unless you do it on their terms.


3. If the claim is, "Whatever begins to exist has a cause," and some upstart, thinking he has cleverly seized upon a fatal flaw in the claim, asks, "If everything has a cause, what caused God?", then to point out that the question hasn't any relevance to the actual claim which was made is not to recast the discussion -- it is point out that the question is not at all relevant to any rational discussion of the actual claim.

4. If the upstart has been misled into thinking the claim is, "Everything has a cause", but is subsequently informed of what the actual claim is, and the upstart then goes on to dig in his heels and, amongst other things, expresses his displeasure over what he erroneously thinks is an attempt to recast the terms of the discussion, he in fact is -- regardless of what he may think he's succeeding at -- merely succeeding at portraying himself as a rotten egg.

(cont)

Glenn said...

By the same token, if Popper, or someone of lesser stature, seeks out weakness in materialism by framing the argument in a way that does not represent materialism, or ignores what in means entirely, there is nothing that should stop me, as a proponent, from framing the argument in its proper context. I will not accept propositions or sets that are questionable. It's fair for me as well as for any proponent. I don't care what anyone might think about that especially when I know they exercise the same right themselves.

5. Popper has claimed that the materialist holds that World 1 is casually closed, but you haven't given any reason for anyone to think that that claim constitutes a misrepresentation of the materialist's position.

6. Popper also has not claimed that the materialist holds that World 3 is not included in World 1, and you haven't given any reason for anyone to think that his failure to claim that likewise constitutes a misrepresentation of the materialist's position.

7. Given 3. and 4. above, and 5. and 6. just now, I see nothing which might qualify as being 'the same token'.

You missed the fact that I denied a genuine problem had been identified.

Either you have a reading comprehension problem or are playing the gadfly. (That ‘or’ is OR, and not XOR).

"Since you deny that World 3 is not included in World 1, you deny Popper's use of the term 'objective'."

To answer this I merely refer you to six paragraphs above.


7. The 6th para above confirms the fact stated, i.e., the fact that you reject Popper's use of the term 'objective' (as applying to entities in a world which is not part of World 1). The only way you can successfully not deny Popper's use of the term 'objective' is to use the term in the way he himself used it. That is, the only way you can use the term 'objective' in the same way that Popper used it is to acknowledge the existence of World 3 as being a world which is not included in World 1 -- and this for the reason that it is to World 3 entities not included in World 1 that Popper's use of 'objective' applies.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

You seem to be making the argument you always make: that a proponent of a position is hardly likely to just accept an argument against it. This just confuses the psychological with the logical and rational. You can refute a position, whether or not those holding it accept this.

The point is not that the materialist doesn't accept Popper's definitions, assumptions, and reasoning, but that when we investigate these we find that they are a good way of understanding the materialist position. The wiseacre who crows that it is silly to suggest everything has a cause doesn't know the first thing about the cosmological argument(s) and is setting up a strawman. Popper is not guilty of doing the same to materialism, or at least you haven't show he is. Therefore the cases are simply different. It adds nothing to your argument to point about the materialist doesn't accept Popper's conclusion, unless you can show exactly upon which grounds they disagree with Popper's argument and that they are correct for doing so.

Don Jindra said...

Crude,

"The lesson is that if you roll in asking people to defend an argument they haven't made (and in fact wouldn't make), they're going to call you out on it."

By the same token, if you tell people their worldview sets up a contradiction when that contradiction does not exist inside that worldview, you will be called out on it.


Glenn,

"Popper has claimed that the materialist holds that World 1 is casually closed, but you haven't given any reason for anyone to think that that claim constitutes a misrepresentation of the materialist's position."

Despite our best efforts, we have a communication breakdown. A materialist does hold -- he affirms, he's adamant about, and sometimes quite strident in saying -- that World 1 is causally closed. I never disputed that. I dispute that this sets up the alleged problem. The text I quoted began, "A related problem for materialism posed by World 3 is ..." But World 3 poses no such problem for a materialist. It doesn't do so because it's taken for granted that World 3 is inside World 1 (speaking of my materialism). It's a problem only when the dualist or pluralist makes it a problem on his end by using his premises as if the materialist is bound to accept them. He isn't. He's been asked to reject his own reasoning and split up his smoothly operating World into 3 broken Worlds before he can even recognize the alleged problem. It's not reasonable to expect him to do that. It's not fair to accuse him of a dangling contradiction just because he won't cast aside his coherent framework in order to have a friendly chat about the nature of reality. This is my main point.

"The only way you can successfully not deny Popper's use of the term 'objective' is to use the term in the way he himself used it."

I note that here, again, I'm expected to play in Popper's ballpark as if it's the only one in town. It's a rigged game (Wow, that almost sounds Trumpish!). But I'll play catch with this anyway.

If I understand your meaning, which is a long shot, your claim is that I use the word "objective" differently than Popper. Maybe a bit. But I don't think the difference is in what the word should mean, it's in understanding what counts as a standard for it to have the intended meaning. When I use the word, I assume the standard has to be located in the material world. Without confirmation in that world (World 1), to talk of objectivity is nonsense. Claims that an objective standard can be found in Popper's World 3 -- a world beyond physical examination -- is like saying I have a billion dollars stashed somewhere but nobody will ever be able to find it. Putting standards in Popper's World 3 creates a hopelessly relativistic universe. So if Popper thought objectivity in art is available only if there's a World 3, I'd counter that putting it in World 3 guarantees we'll never find it.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

The point of Popper is that World Three includes aspects of reality that cannot be considered material. Amongst other things, these aspects include abstract concepts. It is no good just saying the materialist doesn't accept this. You need to show how abstract concepts, for example, can be understood materially, as all material things are particular and individual, whereas abstract concepts are universal and abstract.

You try to refute him here (it seems to me) with this:

The Pythagorean theorem has no existence outside us. It deals with perfect triangles -- that is, with ideals that do not exist in nature. We did invent that ideal. That ideal and all things dealing with that ideal will disappear with us (unless independently invented by extraterrestrials.)

But this obviously isn't good enough. It doesn't matter if abstract concepts have no existence outside us. What matters is how we have access to them, even within ourselves, if they are abstract and universal and we are material (and therefore particular and individual). This passage of yours doesn't even begin to explain that.

Certainly, many materialists may believe that abstract concepts, and the rest of World 3, can be explained materially, but they need to show how.

Anonymous said...

The basis of the natural world's construction is primary shape, primary geometry, elemental shape - circular, linear, angular. Everything is one of those three - curved, strictly linear, or angled. The intersection of these three modes of geometry make virtually every shape. If you take enough triangles, squares, and circles, any form will appear. You put them together in certain conjunctions, and they will make absolutely every form.
The world as it seems to be, is multiples of primary (tiny) geometries, intersecting with each other many, many times, such that the perceptible form seems to be soft-edged.

Meanwhile all of the usual dreary arguments produced by all of the spirit-killing left-brained talking heads in the academy systematically eliminate or discount the intrinsically paradoxical nature of Reality.

The irreducible paradox of unobservability and unknowability is the actual real state of every one and every thing.

Reality which is always prior to point of view has no thing in it, no other in it, no separate self in it, no ideas, no constructs in mind or perception, and altogether, no point of view.

Much of the problems in the world have to do with double-mindedness, the subject-object division, the body-mind division, the spirit-flesh division, the self-and-other division. The dividedness of human consciousness is a fundamental problem, and the source of problems. This is especially so in the case of the spirit-killing left-brained talking heads that infest the academy, including all of the theology and "divinty" schools.

Gyan said...

Truth is defined as being adequate to reality. However, a physical triangle is true to the extent it approaches the ideal triangle.
This seems curious. What exist are physical triangles. Why are they judged by something ideal?
So, truth in this case is being adequate to an ideal.
So, which should claim priority, the reality or the ideal?

Jeremy Taylor said...

Gyan,

The equating of reality with the physical in your post is question-begging, but, anyway, Dr. Feser alludes to the central issue behind your question here:

Obviously a materialist could try to respond by simply denying the reality of World 3, but something like World 3 must be accepted on pain of taking on all the problems afflicting nominalism, conceptualism, etc. 

Your own post highlights some of these problems. After all, if we get rid of the ideal triangle, what does it mean to talk of physical triangles? Does this not then refer simply assorted physical objects we designate as triangles? This seems opens up all sorts of questions in terms of mathematics, logic and reasoning (when we look beyond triangles to, for example, logical forms, which are similarly abstract and universal), and epistemology.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"What matters is how we have access to [abstract concepts], even within ourselves, if they are abstract and universal and we are material (and therefore particular and individual). This passage of yours doesn't even begin to explain that."

This is an example of the tunnel vision we all have to be careful of. You choose to look at this issue from your perspective. You expect me to think about and worry about the problems you see from your perspective. But from my perspective there is no problem here. The abstract and universal *are* material. Therefore we *do* have access to them. We use those words. Those words represent how the material aspects of our brains operate. Abstract concepts are 100% material. I agree we need to show how. And I'm confident we will be able to do that by looking strictly at the physical connections in the brain. However, I don't see how you can do that from your POV since from that POV there is nowhere to look.

ozero91 said...

"And I'm confident we will be able to do that by looking strictly at the physical connections in the brain."

The problem with this is that the physical structures don't imply any meaning unless you bring in external information, like asking the person what they were thinking at the time.

Just like how logic gates are only logic gates if we treat them as such. I could assign any 1 a random concept besides True, and then the interpretation would be gibberish and not an instantiation of a truth table. Just because two physical structures are the same doesn't mean they must refer to the same thing or the same concept. Or refer to anything at all for that matter.

Glenn said...

DJ,

It's a problem only when the dualist or pluralist makes it a problem on his end by using his premises as if the materialist is bound to accept them. He isn't.

Again, whether the problem is a genuine problem is not a function of whether the materialist himself accepts certain premises.

Claims that an objective standard can be found in Popper's World 3 -- a world beyond physical examination -- is like saying I have a billion dollars stashed somewhere but nobody will ever be able to find it.

Possibly it is also like saying that there is a coherent framework to the materialism of a certain materialist, but no one else will be ever able to understand it -- because: a) that certain materialist never says what it is; b) that certain materialist only claims that it exists; and, c) even if that certain materialist were to give an account of it, it wouldn't be possible to physically exam it.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,


This is an example of the tunnel vision we all have to be careful of. You choose to look at this issue from your perspective. You expect me to think about and worry about the problems you see from your perspective. But from my perspective there is no problem here. The abstract and universal *are* material. Therefore we *do* have access to them. We use those words. Those words represent how the material aspects of our brains operate. Abstract concepts are 100% material. I agree we need to show how. And I'm confident we will be able to do that by looking strictly at the physical connections in the brain. However, I don't see how you can do that from your POV since from that POV there is nowhere to look.

So, even though the material is by definition individual and particular, you are confident that we will find our how the universal and abstract is in fact material? This seems to be taking promissory note materialism to the extreme. It is as if someone came along and claimed can 2+2=5, but said they couldn't tell you how now; you'd just have to trust them that they'd prove it in the future. This is not a matter of just a lack of knowledge. It seems that conceptually the material cannot be abstract and universal, so you will therefore have to do a lot better than talking about perspectives and your confidence in materialism.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

Even though it might not appear so, I'm trying to understand what your objection is. This is the best I can come up with so far. There are genuine problems that cannot be avoided. One can ignore that smoking causes cancer, but one cannot avoid it. There are other problems that are not genuine. The monster under the child's bed is a phase, not a genuine problem. The issue is how do we distinguish between a genuine and an imagined problem?

In the issue we're discussing, I see no evidence that it's a genuine problem for me. The issue doesn't result in a contradiction within my framework. The only way for it to become a problem from my POV, is to reject my materialism. That externally generated contradiction is an insufficient reason for rejecting my materialism. It's not even a sufficient reason for questioning my materialism.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"So, even though the material is by definition individual and particular, you are confident that we will find our how the universal and abstract is in fact material?"

Yes, I'm very confident of that. I'll tell you why. There's nothing mystical about words, even words like 'universal' and 'abstract'. The first hurdle is understanding what those words mean, and even what 'meaning' means.

Let's consider an apple worm. It likes eating apples. But how does it know an apple? Does it have an abstract concept of apples? As far as it knows, according to your assertion that a material world is full of only "individual and particular" items, the apple worm has no business doing what it does. No apple is the same so how could it know when it crawls from one apple to the next, that it has found something like what it ate yesterday? Wouldn't it try eating rocks and bark just as often?

You might say, it's merely instinct -- a chemical thing, senseless cause and effect. But that could mean, and I assert it does mean, that that instinct is just another name for abstraction.

The worm instinctively filters out all data irrelevant to the business at hand. It filters through only the data it needs for the task. That's a crude form of data compression. Data compression is the key to both the brain's most simple and most complex operations. Abstraction is nothing more than data compression. It's a mechanical process which is why worms have no trouble doing it at a primitive level.

We humans tend to see ourselves as extraordinary. We put abstraction near the top of our abilities. But I claim even a worm does it. We just do it a lot better. Nevertheless, it's still fundamentally the same mechanics.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I don't see how the worm illustration helps matters at all. The point is that we have access to - have knowledge or awareness of - abstract concepts. Unless you wish to deny this (which some materialists and others do, though, as Dr. Feser notes, at a great cost), I don't see the relevance of the worm example. The worm either has access to them as well, which leaves this still in need of explanation. Or the worm doesn't have access, and is therefore in a different situation to humans (unless, of course, again, if you are suggesting humans don't truly know abstract concepts).

The material is individual and particular: a material thing has extension, location, and so on. An abstract concept, by definition lacks these. It must be universal and abstract, and therefore capable of being predictable of a multitude of individual, material things, with differing, mutually exclusive, material qualities. So, any individual triangle will have a particular size, shape (isosceles, equilateral, etc), location, material it is made out of (whether wood, iron, the brain), colour, and so on. But the abstract concept of a triangle must be predictable to all particular triangles equally - so cannot have a particular size, location, and so on. To say that abstract concepts exist only within the brain, therefore, seems close to contradictory. It seems close to making an abstract concept particular and individual (as the matter of a brain must be), which is much the same as doing away with such concepts altogether.

You haven't done anything to show this is not the case. Certainly, your talk of perspectives or confidence in materialism doesn't do this. For us to share your confidence, you will need to do something to dispel the sense that what you are suggesting doesn't make sense. And I don't see, also, that your worm example has anything relevant to tell us.

Glenn said...

DJ,

The issue doesn't result in a contradiction within my framework.

1. Popper's World 1 includes only those things whose initial existence and continued existence is without the agency of the human mind, and his World 3 includes only those things whose initial existence and continued existence requires the agency of the human mind.

2. You don't deny the reality of the things Popper's World 3, only that they are in any way outside of World 1. (Yet I don't deny the reality of the stuff Popper puts arbitrarily put into "World 3." I deny it's in any way outside of World 1.
) But to deny that the things in Popper's World 3 are in any way outside of World 1 is to claim that things whose existence requires the agency of the human mind qualify as things whose existence does not require the agency of the human mind.

3. Now, while I can understand why you would fail to see that a contradiction exists, or why you would want to deny that a contradiction exists, I can also understand why a rational person would not fail to see the contradiction which does exist.

4. Further, you have indicated via a question that you believe that that which depends on the agency of the human mind would cease to exist were all human minds to cease to exist. (If you agree no "created thing existed as such in actuality prior to its creation," then how can that same created thing exist when the media for its existence (minds of men) ceases to exist?) Your materialism, and its framework, depends for its existence on your mind. If all humans minds were to cease to exist, then, at least according to your indicated belief, so too would your materialism and its framework. But if all humans minds were to cease to exist, and only human minds were to cease to exist, then those things whose existence is not dependent on the agency of the human mind for their initial existence and continued existence would not likewise cease to exist, i.e., said things would continue to exist. Ergo, by your own tacit acknowledgement, and contra your verbal denials, your materialism and its framework do not qualify for membership in World 1.

Ciao.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

My initial interest was in the alleged contradiction facing materialism. Having knowledge of or awareness of abstract concepts is no different than having knowledge of or awareness of pain. I agree that a living organism's ability to have knowledge or awareness or experience of anything is a big how-can-that-be? But there's no contradiction in that. We're simply ignorant of the how. That's an inclusive we. The dualist and pluralist are in no better position to explain the how.

"The material is individual and particular: a material thing has extension, location, and so on. An abstract concept, by definition lacks these."

I've never heard of that as part of the definition. It would be unique for the theory of abstract concept to be part of its definition, as if a theory of flight would be part of its definition. Regardless, knowledge is not regulated by flimsy definitions. We define something like "abstract concept" as we think we understand it. Truth is, nobody can honestly say they understand what abstract concepts are at the most fundamental level. We can guess, but we do not know.

"It must be universal and abstract, and therefore capable of being predictable of a multitude of individual, material things, with differing, mutually exclusive, material qualities."

Your reasoning fails right there. It's simply not true that abstract concepts are identical in individuals. The word 'tall' is a good example. Tallness to one person is not precisely the same in another. The same could be said of virtually any abstract concept. Recently, for example, Pluto was downgraded from being a planet. But this caused scoffing. It remains a planet to many, including me. Obviously some people differ on what constitutes a planet.

"But the abstract concept of a triangle must be predictable to all particular triangles equally - so cannot have a particular size, location, and so on. To say that abstract concepts exist only within the brain, therefore, seems close to contradictory. It seems close to making an abstract concept particular and individual"

You're trying to make something profound which isn't. Of course we can often agree on our abstract concepts. It simply does not follow that our agreement means there is some mysterious universal that resides outside our brains. It doesn't follow that particular individuals cannot find (or synchronize to) near universal or even totally universal agreement. This is true even in lifeless nature. Oxygen atoms 'agree' to bond with hydrogen atoms. No mysterious dualism is required to explain this universal behavior of oxygen atoms.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

"But to deny that the things in Popper's World 3 are in any way outside of World 1 is to claim that things whose existence requires the agency of the human mind qualify as things whose existence does not require the agency of the human mind."

And this happens why? Because Popper arbitrarily asserts things in World 1 cannot include things whose existence requires the agency of the human mind. The materialist is under no reasonable obligation to accept Popper's assertion therefore he won't accept the supposed contradiction.

"If all humans minds were to cease to exist, then, at least according to your indicated belief, so too would your materialism and its framework."

Of course it would. Materialist is an 'ism' like any other. It's a human framework for understanding the world. That's not a contradiction. Like (I hope) any rational person, I draw a line between the ism and the universe which goes about its business perfectly fine without me. IOW, World 1 doesn't need me to think about it.


Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

I've never heard of that as part of the definition.

You've never heard that abstract concepts are abstract and universal? And that what is abstract and universal lacks the individual and particular qualities of matter, such as extension, location, and so on? If so, I think you need to do some actual reading into what you are trying to discuss, or just think about what you are saying.


Your reasoning fails right there. It's simply not true that abstract concepts are identical in individuals. The word 'tall' is a good example. Tallness to one person is not precisely the same in another. The same could be said of virtually any abstract concept. Recently, for example, Pluto was downgraded from being a planet. But this caused scoffing. It remains a planet to many, including me. Obviously some people differ on what constitutes a planet.

What do you mean by identical in individuals? An abstract concept is by definition abstract and universal. Are you suggesting the concept of a triangle does not in some sense include (conceptually) equilateral, isosceles, and scalene triangles? Yet any material triangle can only be one of these.

You seem to confuse abstract concepts themselves with the conditions under which they are can predicated of individuals, as in your Pluto example. You also seem to misunderstand that any material thing will possess accidents - like colour or material or shape (equilateral, etc), as it instantiates an abstract form or concept. But this is part of the point. Each individual, material triangle is accompanied by a number of accidents, and these are mutually exclusive amongst different material triangles (no material triangle can be both 2 inches square and 2 miles square, for example). But the concept must be able to be predictable of any material triangle, regardless of accidents. You therefore miss the point. Unless, that is, you are struggling to suggest there is no such thing as abstract concepts - but, as our host points out, that position comes at a great cost.

You're trying to make something profound which isn't.....

You now seem to be giving up on the position that abstract concepts exist materially, and switching your argument. Either that or you weren't clear in your thinking to begin with. If you are switching, then you open yourself up to all the problems of nominalism that Dr. Feser notes.

There would be great headaches for mathematics and logic, for example, if we get rid of abstract concepts. Take the latter. When we reason that Socrates is mortal because all men are mortal (and he is a man), we base this on an intuition into the essence of the what it means to be a man. If there is no essence of man - if man is just what we decide to call man based on our cataloguing needs - then our syllogism doesn't work. We can never say someone is mortal because of the very nature of man. We must say only that all those things we call man seem to have died, so we think it probable something that we conclude is a man (it is another headache how you so conclude, but let us leave that aside) will die. We can only come to an inductive, or probable, conclusion about Socrates' mortality. Deduction - all deduction, including that used by science and maths and logic - comes crashing down, and most of our intellectual disciplines with it.

Besides, we do have access to abstract concepts. We are right now discussing them. I, at least, understand what the abstract concept of a triangle is, and its nature. That requires an explanation in itself, which is no given by prattle about mysticism.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"You've never heard that abstract concepts are abstract and universal? And that what is abstract and universal lacks the individual and particular qualities of matter, such as extension, location, and so on?"

This is what I responded to: "The material is individual and particular: a material thing has extension, location, and so on. An abstract concept, by definition lacks these." In the context of this conversation, and in the words as you wrote them, I assumed you meant that the definition of "abstract concept" claims the implementation itself lacks "extension, location, and so on." If you find such a definition please provide a link. This is the closest I could find: "Abstract concepts include freedom, good and evil, love, feminism, success, morality, and chauvinism. Abstract terms refer to ideas or concepts; they have no physical referents." So this says nothing about the implementation of the abstract concept, it say only that the implementation refers to some 'thing' which is non-physical.

But is even this true? No. It's a naive assertion. It assumes "freedom, good and evil, love, feminism, success, morality, and chauvinism" are non-physical. Try telling that to a teen in love for the first time. Do you think he'd agree that what's happening inside him is non-physical?

Love is certainly physical. It's buried inside us where nobody else can point to it, but it's surely there in abundance.

Think about the concept of sex in a virgin versus a hooker. The virgin has an abstract concept of the thing itself. She's never experienced the physical dimensions. What little she know is from stories, drawings and lectures. She reads romance novels and fantasizes. The hooker has few traces of the abstract, innocent concepts of her girlhood. She's disillusioned by a plethora of "extension, location, and so on."

Experience hardens a sloppy "abstract" concept into concrete.

But I'm not talking about a difference in kind. It's a difference in the quality of sensory input. There is no such thing as a truly 100% "abstract concept." But this is not to say that what you call an abstract concept is an illusion. It very much exists in the concrete in our brains.

"You also seem to misunderstand that any material thing will possess accidents - like colour or material or shape (equilateral, etc), as it instantiates an abstract form or concept."

And here you miss the implication of what you say. Any material thing will possess accidents -- obviously. So the fact that each instance of that "abstract form or concept" is unique (planet Pluto, tallness, etc.) could just as easily imply that the "abstract form or concept" was *always* material. It was material from the beginning, from its first instance of creation in the mind of that brute who invented the very concept of a triangle. Good ideas tends to spread, and this one did. But it can still *only* be found in the mind and so it is nothing but the collection of its imperfect, material instances.

Time to disillusion you about "pure" triangles. We do not think about triangles in the "abstract" sense you think we do. Try explaining a triangle to someone with no experience of two-dimensions, no experience with points and lines and sides and geometry of any kind. He'll be left with a bunch of words, but nothing approach an "abstract concept" as we use the term. He'll have nothing to grasp onto. He'll never be able to associate the a^2+b^2=C^2 with the geometry. He'd have no idea why a triangular shape is worth considering or what it means or how universality applies to it. Essentially, your claim makes sense only if triangles can make sense to that guy. I claim they never will make sense to him. Your "abstract concept" of triangles becomes as nonsensical as it would be to him.



Jeremy Taylor said...

From Peter Kreet's Socratic Logic textbook:

Concepts have at least five characteristics that material things do not have. They are spiritual (immaterial), abstract, universal, necessary, and unchanging....the most important of these characteristics of concepts for philosophy is their universality. Universal means one-in-many or one-something-in-many diverse somethings, one nature or essence or form in many concrete individuals. A single concept unifies many sense perceptions under one idea. With our senses we perceive houses of different shapes, sizes, and color, but with our minds we understand the nature of each houses - the house...It is only the mind that brings all the houses under a single concept house. The concept makes what we see intelligible. It brings order out of chaos.

But all this should be obvious: abstract concepts are you know...abstract and universal.

What you mean by implementation seems to refer to how concepts are predictable of individual, material things: in what sense a red rose is red, and so on. I was purposefully avoiding this discussion, as there are many views amongst realists, and it isn't relevant to our discussion. The point is that some realist solution must be correct, lest we fall into the pitfalls of nominalism, conceptualism, etc.

And you seem to have fallen into these pitfalls, as you express with far too many words. If there is no abstract or universal concepts, as you say, then the concepts of a triangle, or a man, or justice have no more essential nature than the grouping of things I did last Thursday or towns smaller than Yeovil. But this is problematic. For a start, as noted, it undermines deduction. We can never conclude that Socrates must be mortal without abstract concepts. And with deduction falls logic, maths, and science. You make no response to this. We can't even use induction, as there is nothing in a category that would allow generalisation (except perhaps in cases of complete induction).

It is not news to Scholastics that someone needs to have a mental picture of a triangle before knowing about triangles (though as a Platonist I'm not sure this is true). But this does not prove that we do not make use of abstract concepts. It would be a surprise to mathematicians, for example, that there is no such thing as the abstract and universal concept of a triangle; that they were always working with just an approximation of what a triangle is. This makes about as much as sense as saying we reason with an approximation of modus ponens, etc, which is really what follows from your position. I don't think you grasp the enormity of what you are suggesting.

And we do have access to abstract concepts, or I do. I do have knowledge of a perfect triangle, despite the fact none can exist materially. You don't respond to this, or begin to explain it, or show I'm somehow mistaken.

Essentially,

I don't think you meant to say this....

grodrigues said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"It would be a surprise to mathematicians, for example, that there is no such thing as the abstract and universal concept of a triangle; that they were always working with just an approximation of what a triangle is."

Besides what you said, the very expression "approximation of what a triangle is" pressuposes a definite triangle-ness. If there are no triangles, in some robust realist sense, then there are no "approximations" either.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

Thanks for that Peter Kreet quote. The chapter begins with this parenthetical: "This section is more philosophical than logical, but it is important because it fleshes out the positive alternative to nominalism and provides the essential philosophical foundation for Aristotelian logic."

It's pressing an Aristotelian point of view. So you've located a friendly source who, to his credit, is honest in admitting he's siding with realism.

Let's look at those first two sentences: "Concepts have at least five characteristics that material things do not have. They are spiritual (immaterial), abstract, universal, necessary, and unchanging."

The logician says concepts have characteristics material things do not have. What's the first characteristic? That concepts are immaterial! Why would a teacher of logic resort to such an obvious tautology? Not only is this circular reasoning, but it begs the question.

Kreet elaborates. The concept of an apple "is 'in' your mind, not your body. It is not in your brain, for your brain is part of your body." That continues to beg the question. He merely dismisses the possibility that mind is in the brain. He tries to justify this with a silly straw man: "It [the concept of apple] has no size, so it cannot fit there. (If you say that it does have size, the size of an apple, then you must say that your brain must get as big as an elephant when you think of an elephant.)" I wonder if there is a materialist in existence who believes the implementation of concepts in the brain have to share the characteristics of the things they refer to?

Then he immediately contradicts himself: "In contrast to the concept 'apple,' the word 'apple' is just as physical as an apple. It takes up space on the page, and it is made of molecules." But using Kreet's preceding reasoning, the word would have to have the size of an apple to refer to the apple. But his memory lapses mid-argument. So when he concludes, "the concept's being is not physical (material), but spiritual (immaterial)," it's an unconvincing, poorly reasoned opinion.

I don't have time for the many blunders in this chapter. One of the worst is in the section, "Relations between concepts are necessary." Kreet claims, "Every tree necessarily has leaves." Has Kreet never seen a tree in winter, or a dead tree? Is he unfamiliar with search trees where the leaves may be called leaves but are really data points? Does he remember the trees I climbed in my childhood? There is no necessity in concepts. A triangle has to have three sides, not because its essence dictates it, but because the definition dictates it. There's nothing profound in definitions. Even with standard definitions, concepts are accidental and individual to each person. They may change over time, like our concept of 'conservatism' or 'liberalism.' It's highly unlikely that my concept of 'apple' is exactly like anyone else's. My wife gets sick at the smell of coffee. I like the smell of coffee. Obviously our concepts of coffee are somewhat at odds. Kreet is simply wrong about necessity.

Kreet ends one section with this: "Only because we distinguish between appearance and reality do we ask questions. There would be no philosophy and no science without this distinction." So I challenge Kreet and you to look below appearance and seek out the reality of concepts, a reality that only appears to be immaterial.

Btw, you're wasting your time when you think I think there are no abstract or universal concepts. I've said several times, there are. I did mean to use the word 'essentially.' That's the response to your insinuation that I think otherwise.

Glenn said...

DJ,

Are you a fan of Star Trek? A character from some lost episode of it? I wonder only because after first making an assertion [1], and then, apparently, backtracking from it [2], you boldly go where nobody has gone before [3].

- - - - -

[1] "The abstract and universal *are* material." -- October 26, 2016 at 6:40 AM

[2] "Truth is, nobody can honestly say they understand what abstract concepts are at the most fundamental level. We can guess, but we do not know." -- October 28, 2016 at 6:02 AM

[3] "I challenge Kreet and you to look below appearance and seek out the reality of concepts, a reality that only appears to be immaterial." -- October 30, 2016 at 8:45 AM

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

LOL! I admit 1->2->3 could raise suspicion. I wish I did know how neurons implement abstraction (assuming neurons can do it).

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

I will assume your appraisal of Kreeft's point was an attempt at comedy and move on.

I was in need of no source to support the point that abstract concepts are, you know, abstract. That they are universal, etc., follows from this. Are you suggesting the concept of a triangle does not incorporate all the possible shapes, sizes, materials, locations, and so on, that a triangle may instantiate (to speak loosely)? How would you suggest a particular, individual material thing may do this? Even you seem to in fact admit there are abstract concepts.

I notice, again, you refuse to respond to obvious pitfalls in your position. We are all waiting with bated breath to see how you suggest mathematicians do away with abstract concepts, or how logic could function without them. Before you can suggest that there is no such thing as abstract concepts (although you seem to admit there are such concepts at the same time as denying them), you need to show how logic, maths, or science could function without them - and without them having essences - or how we can in fact have knowledge of abstract concepts.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Perhaps you lack of understanding of the issue of concepts and universals within philosophy is related to your sloppy reasoning. You blend concepts and image and affections, not stopping for a second to think things through and ask whether you need to make important distinctions. You even manage to drag in how you feel about a category of things or your childhood memory of them with the abstract concept of them.

Images, affections, memories, likes and dislikes that can be connected to categories represented by concepts are not relevant to our discussion. They do not show that we don't have access to abstract concepts, nor do they somehow help in showing how to solve problems for maths, science, and logic that come from dispensing with abstract concepts. The same goes for any talk about those who have imperfect understanding or knowledge of concepts. At least, you need to do some work to show how any of this is actually relevant to the main point at hand.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"I was in need of no source to support the point that abstract concepts are, you know, abstract."

This has nothing to do with what I've been saying. This is about how abstracts are implemented. Kreet says, by "spiritual" means. I say that's nonsense. Abstractions are implemented by material means.


"Are you suggesting the concept of a triangle does not incorporate all the possible shapes, sizes, materials, locations, and so on, that a triangle may instantiate (to speak loosely)?"

No. Nor am I saying the concept of a face does not incorporate all the possible shapes, sizes, materials, etc. that we define as a face. Nor am I saying the concept of a apple does not incorporate all the possible shapes, sizes, materials, etc. that we define as an apple. There is nothing especially abstract about a triangle. It's abstraction level is no different than a face.


"How would you suggest a particular, individual material thing may do this?"

Why shouldn't an individual collection of material neurons be capable of doing this? There's no reason they should not. I already suggested data compression. Besides, it's certainly no more reasonable that an *individual* immaterial mind (or soul) should be able to do it. Your objection applies to both material and immaterial implementations.


"I notice, again, you refuse to respond to obvious pitfalls in your position. We are all waiting with bated breath to see how you suggest mathematicians do away with abstract concepts"

You merely failed to recognize that I already responded to this. Mathematicians do not need to do away with abstract concepts. The abstract number 2 exists as a representation in our brain cells. You seem to be stuck trying to force me to deny abstracts when I in fact embrace abstracts. Using forms of abstraction is just how all brains work.


"You even manage to drag in how you feel about a category of things or your childhood memory of them with the abstract concept of them."

I brought this up because of your insistence that abstractions are universal. They aren't necessarily so. They're based on our experiences. My abstraction of trees is based on my experience with what we agree to call trees, which obviously involves my experience climbing them. This is why we sometimes can't agree on much about these abstractions. We can't even agree on the abstraction called "abstraction." "Images, affections, memories, likes and dislikes that can be connected to categories represented by concepts" are *exactly* what the discussion is about. The first step is to understand what abstraction means.


"They do not show that we don't have access to abstract concepts,"

Of course I have access to my abstractions. They're in my head.


Jeremy Taylor said...

This has nothing to do with what I've been saying. This is about how abstracts are implemented. Kreet says, by "spiritual" means. I say that's nonsense. Abstractions are implemented by material means.

I don't think you understand what you're talking about. You seem to jump all over the place. We are talking about abstract concepts and our knowledge and use of them. By implementation you seem to mean how such concepts, or forms, can be predictable of individual things. This is not what are discussing, and not relevant to our discussion. It is enough that abstract mathematical concepts exist, or logical forms, for my point to stand.

There is nothing especially abstract about a triangle. It's abstraction level is no different than a face.

A triangle is obviously easier to understand, and its existence as an abstract concept more obvious, which is why it has a long history of use as an illustration in contexts like these.

Why shouldn't an individual collection of material neurons be capable of doing this? There's no reason they should not. I already suggested data compression. Besides, it's certainly no more reasonable that an *individual* immaterial mind (or soul) should be able to do it. Your objection applies to both material and immaterial implementations.

Obviously, an individual collection of material neurons is individual and particular. It must have particular size, shape, location, material, and so on. How can what cannot be limited to particular size, shape, location, material, etc., exist within it? You haven't begun to answer this question, which is the core of our argument. You jump around to memories of childhood tree climbing or such nonsense. Mumbling about data compression obviously doesn't help either.

A non-material mind could take on immaterial forms. It does not suffer the same problem.

The abstract number 2 exists as a representation in our brain cells.

You mean the concept of two that can, and must be able to, apply to innumerable material things or relationships, with innumerable sizes, shapes, and all that? Yet in our brain cells it must have some particular size, shape, etc. You have done absolutely nothing to show how your position can save mathematics, logic, and science.

I brought this up because of your insistence that abstractions are universal. They aren't necessarily so. They're based on our experiences. My abstraction of trees is based on my experience with what we agree to call trees, which obviously involves my experience climbing them. This is why we sometimes can't agree on much about these abstractions.

This is just confused. If you accept the existence of abstract concepts, then you accept that they distinct from images, and obviously they are distinct from our memories and feelings. And you say you accept the existence of abstract concepts. In what sense does the abstract concept of a triangle have to do with our childhood memories or particular associations? The abstract concept - what we are discussing - is the genus-differentia definition. This is what we use in abstract thought. If we all had to drag in all sorts of personal images and reflections to make use of abstract concepts, they'd be basically incommunicable and of little use of abstract thought. This should be obvious.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"Obviously, an individual collection of material neurons is individual and particular. It must have particular size, shape, location, material, and so on. How can what cannot be limited to particular size, shape, location, material, etc., exist within it? You haven't begun to answer this question, which is the core of our argument."

If this is the core, let's concentrate on that. You're making the same assertion as Kreet: "you must say that your brain must get as big as an elephant when you think of an elephant."

When I read that, it was clear Kreet had no understanding of the subject. We *never* have access to the things in themselves. When I see an elephant, it's not the elephant that enters my eyes. It's the light from the elephant. Nerves carry that data to the brain. The image -- the internal representation -- is all we have access to. Let's call it information. For you or Kreet to suggest the elephant has to enter through our eyes before we see it is silly. Our abstractions come not from the elephant, but sense data from it -- from signals from our handy sensors called eyes. Those signals don't have any bulk as such. The endpoints are simply an arrangement in our brains.

This is basic stuff. We use it in our technology too. We watch a football game on TV. Those images are an endpoint, after "assembly." Look at the the signal itself. There are no players in the RF transmission. There's no color. There's no game at all. Jpeg photo images stored in RAM are "abstractions" from light signals. They are not the picture. They are not the actual thing. Maybe some philosophers need to get their heads out of the clouds and look at the gooey mess that they only think they're talking about.

grodrigues said...

"When I read that, it was clear Kreet had no understanding of the subject."

This sentence is truly hilarious.

Chris Giles said...

Glenn, what a joy to read! A very neat demolition.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Don,

You have a rare gift for missing the point. The point (mine, I mean. You seem to confuse me and Kreeft and act as if he is also directly arguing with you) is obviously not that the materialist must believe the brain actually turns into a triangle to grasp the concept of a triangle (let us stay with this example). The point is that it must somehow grasp or symbolise the abstract concept of a triangle materially, and all mater is individual and particular. Indeed, the very idea of turning into a triangle shows the problems - the brain would have to turn into a particular kind of triangle, say an equilateral one, with a particular size, location, and so on. It seems close to contradiction to say that any assemblage of material - and therefore particular and individual - things could grasp what is abstract and universal, precisely because, however the explanation goes, it must end with what is individual and particular.

Vague and incoherent references to jpegs doesn't even begin to solve this problem. In what sense does a jpeg create abstract concepts? At no point, either within the jpeg or on the screen is there actually abstract concepts. You seem to have confused an image and the information to create an image with abstract concepts.

And if you try to get rid of abstract concepts, you fall into those pitfalls, some of which I brought up and you resolutely ignored.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"It seems close to contradiction to say that any assemblage of material - and therefore particular and individual - things could grasp what is abstract and universal, precisely because, however the explanation goes, it must end with what is individual and particular."

First, as I've already pointed out, abstract concepts are not universal. We are disagreeing about the meaning of several right now.

Second, abstracts *are* particular to each of us. The "assemblage of material" *does* end in the particular.

Third, it does not follow that an abstract must be composed of an abstract. That looks suspiciously like a fallacy of composition.

Fourth, your mind is yours and yours alone. The dualist mind/soul is individual. Any "assemblage" of immaterial mind (being particular and individual) couldn't possibly end up with something abstract and universal. Please explain your double standard.


"the brain would have to turn into a particular kind of triangle, say an equilateral one, with a particular size, location, and so on."

That does not follow. There's no representation in our brain of a universal triangle. Go ahead and tell me what that u-triangle looks like. Draw it for me. Fact is, the only images you will be able to conjure up are particulars. The "abstractness" of triangles is found in our brain's ability to match patterns. It does so by stripping away all irrelevant data (lossy data compression) then comparing what remains to the points of interest (the definition). Abstractness is a particular pattern matching algorithm run on particular data with a particular result. The algorithm was put in there by experience, that is, other particulars. Even a consumer camera today can find faces in a frame. That's abstraction at work and it's done with a 100% material machine. Maybe now you can see why I would never deny abstraction. It's as real as a camera. It would be a simpler task to program a computer to find triangles in a frame. Take it from a programmer, the computer would not have to turn into a particular kind of triangle to execute that task.

Jeremy Taylor said...

You have both said abstract concepts are not universals and implied they are. The problem is that if they aren't universals then this not only means you fall into pitfalls, dragging down logic, maths, and science with you, but you have to ignore the fact we do in fact have access to abstract and universal concepts: we grasp what the abstract and universal concept of a triangle is, and the fact it is equilateral, scalene, and isosceles - and neither of these - all at once. If it were not universal it couldn't have such qualities. You have given no reply to any of this.


Second, abstracts *are* particular to each of us.

This is gibberish. It relies on your confusion of images, affections, and the like with abstract concepts. Otherwise, it just begs the question.


Third, it does not follow that an abstract must be composed of an abstract. That looks suspiciously like a fallacy of composition.

What do you mean by composed? The abstract and universal is abstract and universal. That means you can't just point to something individual and particular and claim the abstract and universal is reducible to it. In what sense can you do this that doesn't explain away the very qualities in question?

That does not follow. There's no representation in our brain of a universal triangle. Go ahead and tell me what that u-triangle looks like. Draw it for me. Fact is, the only images you will be able to conjure up are particulars.

I agree the material brain can have no representation of a universal triangle. That is the point. Yet we knowledge of the universal and abstract concept of a triangle. You then yet again seem to confuse concepts and images, whether me drawing one or a CCTV camera. And then you drag in nonsense about algorithms (which are meaningless without humans to give meaning to them, anyway). In what sense does a CCTV being programmed to locate particular triangles, even many different sizes and kinds, equate to grasping the abstract and universal concept of a triangle? You simply don't seem to understand what an abstract concept is, which is astounding, seeing you are arguing at such length and with such confidence about them.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Of course, it goes without saying there is much wrong in your posts I have ignored, for brevity's sake. For example, how a nominalist can ever, in the end, refer to patterns or anything in common between two things, is question nominalists have never satisfactorily answered.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"you have to ignore the fact we do in fact have access to abstract and universal concepts"

I have said at least twice that we do in fact have access to our abstractions. How can that be spun into me supposedly ignoring that fact?



"I agree the material brain can have no representation of a universal triangle."

I'm saying far more than that. I'm saying you cannot begin to conceptualize a u-triangle in a geometric form. I don't care what method you claim to use to conceptualize it. You cannot think of a triangle except as a particular triangle. You have the direction of abstraction and particulars reversed. We run our abstraction algorithm on particulars -- on particular instances of what might be triangles. The algorithm itself is pointless and meaningless until presented with data -- particulars. It's incapable of dreaming up a "universal" triangle. That's not what abstraction does. Your main issue seems to be what I see as a misunderstanding and misapplication of abstraction. I charge you with the same. We cannot even agree on what abstraction is. I say it's mechanical. It doesn't need meaning to work. A computer can do it -- the ultimate nominalist. Yet you have some lofty idea of it you cannot explain except by changing the subject to qualities, I guess. You complain that I don't know what I'm talking about. But I have the same complaint against you. It begins with our understanding of the abstract terms themselves -- the very subject that should be closed and easy to get past according to your pure and universal idea of abstracts.

So I'm force to ask again, since you keep ignoring it, if abstractions are so universal, why cannot we even agree on the abstraction called "abstraction?"



bmiller said...


"So I'm force to ask again, since you keep ignoring it, if abstractions are so universal, why cannot we even agree on the abstraction called "abstraction?"

Could it be because we don't all consult a dictionary:

From dictionary.com:
2.

the act of considering something as a general quality or characteristic, apart from concrete realities, specific objects, or actual instances.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

I have said at least twice that we do in fact have access to our abstractions. How can that be spun into me supposedly ignoring that fact?

I explicitly referred, in what you quoted, to abstract and universal concepts. You ignore that we have access to actually abstract concepts, not the nonsense you are referring to as abstraction.

I'm saying far more than that. I'm saying you cannot begin to conceptualize a u-triangle in a geometric form. I don't care what method you claim to use to conceptualize it. You cannot think of a triangle except as a particular triangle. You have the direction of abstraction and particulars reversed.

You are simply confusing (again) imagining with conceiving; mental pictures with grasping abstract concepts. An mental picture is not an abstract concept. We do have access to the abstract and universal concept of a triangle. That is, we can grasp that, to quote the definition that comes up at the top of a search google, a triangle is:

a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles.

This definition applies to a myriad of material triangles, many with mutually exclusive features. Certainly, we cannot grasp this definition or concept as a mental image, but we still grasp it. Or, at least, you need to offer some sort of actual argument (not vague ramblings about algorithms) to show we don't grasp, know, or understand it and instead can only know mental images of a triangle. If you are going to argue this you also need to show how you salvage logic, maths, and science, that will come crashing down if you get rid of abstract and universal concepts. You have stayed entirely silent on this latter.


So I'm force to ask again, since you keep ignoring it, if abstractions are so universal, why cannot we even agree on the abstraction called "abstraction?"

Because you don't know what you are talking about, are unable to make obvious distinctions, grasp the issue at hand, and not commit gross fallacies? To measure topics by Don Jindra's understanding of them is a curious kind of test.

Don Jindra said...

bmiller,

Notice in that dictionary entry that there is no indication that an abstraction is universal. Up to this point, universality has been a major part of Jeremy Taylor's argument. Honestly, I'm not sure what he means by that.


Jeremy Taylor,

A mental picture is not an abstract concept."

So we shouldn't expect an abstract concept of triangles to spit out a general one-size-fits-all triangle. We can use it to spit out particular instances of triangles, and we can use it to examine a particular shape we've stumbled across and decide whether or not it meets the triangle spec. The spec is specifically for triangles. It can't be confused with the abstract concept of squares. That's another spec. Both are unique specs -- particulars. Both are pretty simple. They can be implemented with algorithms. A computer can execute those algorithms. They are particular algorithms run on particular data. Yet they can detect any triangle.

So this is where your argument fails. You don't even have to believe, as I do, that simple algorithms are the basic building blocks for our abstractions. Forget that because you don't need to believe it to see my point. My point is that an algorithm does not use particular "images" of triangles, yet it can and does find particulars. It can find all patterns that meet the spec. This is your charge against World 1: "[An abstract concept] must be universal and abstract, and therefore capable of being predictable of a multitude of individual, material things, with differing, mutually exclusive, material qualities." We can remove the second "abstract" as redundant. We can remove "universal" because it's either false or irrelevant. So this is the gist your assertion: An abstract concept must be capable of being predictable of a multitude of individual, material things, with differing, mutually exclusive, material qualities. Since a computer algorithm can do this, your assertion that World 1 stuff is incapable of doing it is empirically false. Therefore your case has no merit.

You insisted on talking about triangles. I see now that it was wrong of me to not follow your lead.


Jeremy Taylor said...

Honestly, I'm not sure what he means by that.

That is because you seem to have a hard time following the most basic points.

Do you practice missing the point?

A computer algorithm is programmed by humans. It lacks any meaning without a human programmer. You might as well suggest that a clock understands the time because it chimes every hour on the hour. The computer's spotting of patterns is simply derivative. At no point do you describe how a computer originally is made to grasp (to speak metaphorically - a computer grasps nothing, really) what a triangle is. Each particular, material triangle has particular qualities. You could add together all the material triangles in the world and you would never get to the concept of a triangle, unless through intellectual intuition you can grasp what is universal to all triangles. This is the pattern and it precisely is what is universal in the sense of being predictable of many individuals whilst being the same in all. But this universal cannot be grasped by anything material because all material things have particular and individual qualities that cannot be materially excluded. The universal in a triangle is not like a material part. You can't physically cut away the accidental qualities and just leave the universal (or, rather, you can, but only metaphorically, with the immaterial mind). And this goes for whether one is talking about the matter of a human brain or a computer circuit grasping a universal. Nothing in your talk about algorithms has any bearing on this whatsoever. It doesn't show that the computer grasps the abstract concepts in the relevant sense.

And what you have said obviously doesn't show that there are no abstract and universal concepts. It doesn't show that I in fact do not grasp that a triangle is:

a plane figure with three straight sides and three angles.

Or that maths, science, and logic don't need abstract and universal concepts. You keep ignoring these points again and again, presumably because you know they are so embarrassing to your position. If abstract concepts are particular and individual, then there is no way I could ever grasp what a triangle is. Each triangle or way or representing a triangle would always be bound to the accidental, and I would never be in a position to remove the accidental or particular and individual qualities of matter to get at the universal.

grodrigues said...

@Jeremy Taylor:

"A computer algorithm is programmed by humans."

And is no less an abstraction than a triangle or an infinite-dimensional space is.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"A computer algorithm is programmed by humans. It lacks any meaning without a human programmer.... The computer's spotting of patterns is simply derivative. At no point do you describe how a computer originally is made to grasp (to speak metaphorically..."

All of this is irrelevant. You claim nothing material can *do* something that is general or universal. This is simply false. Does the triangle-spotting system know what it's doing? No. But it doesn't need to know to refute your assertion. It doesn't matter that it's derivative or that it can't "grasp" the triangle. But actually, it does "grasp" the triangle in the relevant way. And though it's a separate issue, "grasping" anything intellectually may be little more that what that algorithm does. Since you don't know what "grasping" means, you can't be sure it's not all "grasping" means.

"You can't physically cut away the accidental qualities and just leave the universal"

The triangle-spotting algorithm does exactly that.


"Or that maths, science, and logic don't need abstract and universal concepts. You keep ignoring these points again and again,"

Again, this is a straw man. I have not ignored telling you that I embrace abstracts. Your accusation that I want to rid science & math of them is a waste of our time. It's not my position.

bmiller said...

Don Jindra,

"Honestly, I'm not sure what he means by that."


Does this help?


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

"Universals" redirects here. For other uses, see Universal (disambiguation).
In metaphysics, a universal is what particular things have in common, namely characteristics or qualities. In other words, universals are repeatable or recurrent entities that can be instantiated or exemplified by many particular things.[1] For example, suppose there are two chairs in a room, each of which is green. These two chairs both share the quality of "chairness," as well as greenness or the quality of being green; In other words, they share a "universal". There are three major kinds of qualities or characteristics: types or kinds (e.g. mammal), properties (e.g. short, strong), and relations (e.g. father of, next to). These are all different types of universal.[2]
Paradigmatically, universals are abstract (e.g. humanity), whereas particulars are concrete (e.g. the personhood of Socrates). However, universals are not necessarily abstract and particulars are not necessarily concrete.[3] For example, one might hold that numbers are particular yet abstract objects. Likewise, some philosophers, such as D.M. Armstrong, consider universals to be concrete.

Glenn said...

o Sense, which is a power of the body, knows the singular, which is determinate through matter: whereas the intellect, which is a power independent of matter, knows the universal, which is abstracted from matter, and contains an infinite number of singulars. ST I-II Q 2 A 6

Jeremy Taylor said...

Don,


All of this is irrelevant. You claim nothing material can *do* something that is general or universal.

Nonsense. What does this even mean? I could hit the floor with a stick each time I see a triangle. This wouldn't show the stick had grasped what a triangle is.

The point is that to grasp or truly understand a pattern like this is to truly understand a universal. All the particular and individual aspects must be stripped away. This can't be a material process alone because any material thing will have particular and individual aspects or qualities that the pure abstract, universal concept a triangle doesn't. For example, the concept doesn't have, and can't have location, but any material thing, whether a computer or a human brain, no matter how it represents or contains the concept would have to have a location. Your algorithm example (on top of being a further illustration of abstraction, as grodigues notes) simply is no response to this point. Its picking out of patterns is derivative. It doesn't have aware of a universal concept. It has simply been programmed by someone with such awareness to react to each particular thing with those qualities. The original grasping of the pattern was not done with a computer. And even if it were, this wouldn't show that the grasping of an abstract, universal pattern can be done materially. It would just suggest that a computer could somehow develop the same immaterial awareness we can.

What you need to explain is true abstraction, which allows us to know universals. This is what is meant by grasp. I know the definition of a triangle, which is a universal and abstract definition. You need to show that we can get an abstract and universal concept simply by attending to particulars and never truly abstracting from those particulars - never severing size or location from our representation of triangle, for example. You haven't even begun to do this.


Again, this is a straw man. I have not ignored telling you that I embrace abstracts. Your accusation that I want to rid science & math of them is a waste of our time. It's not my position.

Do you practice making fallacies? You commit a strawman in trying to claim I'm making one. I never said you wanted to get rid of maths, science, and logic. I said that this follows from your position. It follows because your idea of abstraction is nonsense. Your idea gets rid of true abstraction because it tries to dispense with universals (although you sometimes imply it doesn't at the same time). You have made no proper response.

Jeremy Taylor said...

One might ask, when you bang on about how you accept abstraction but not abstracting universals, just what it is you think is being abstracted? If a universal isn't being abstracted, then what is? Replacing one particular with another is not abstraction.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"All the particular and individual aspects must be stripped away."

Since it can locate any triangle the triangle-spotting computer definitely does strip away all particular and individual aspects. So it meets the criteria.

"For example, the concept doesn't have, and can't have location, but any material thing, whether a computer or a human brain, no matter how it represents or contains the concept would have to have a location."

Fallacy of composition. Besides, I could turn that nonsense against you: Immaterial "mind" can't have location, therefore it cannot affect the material world. It would have to have location to do that.

"This can't be a material process alone because any material thing will have particular and individual aspects or qualities that the pure abstract, universal concept a triangle doesn't."

This begs the question. My example proves the assertion is false.

"Its picking out of patterns is derivative."

Your concept of a triangle is also derivative. You did not independently invent the concept of triangles or trigonometry.

"If a universal isn't being abstracted, then what is?"

If there is a difference between a universal and an abstraction, that difference is trivial. So the sentence reads to me: "If an abstraction isn't being abstracted, then what is?" I don't know that that's a meaningful sentence. The best answer I can give (and kind gave already) is this: The process of abstraction is just a stripping away of irrelevant data, leaving only the pertinent data, which is virtually the same as your "All the particular and individual aspects must be stripped away." That's a mechanical process. The computer applies the definition (or parameters) to particulars. When something meets the criteria, the answer is "true."

I could hit the floor with a stick each time I see a triangle. This wouldn't show the stick had grasped what a triangle is.

That's no parallel to my example of a computer finding triangles on its own. Besides, this poorly defined "grasping" is irrelevant to what you, yourself called the core issue:

"Obviously, an individual collection of material neurons is individual and particular. It must have particular size, shape, location, material, and so on. How can what cannot be limited to particular size, shape, location, material, etc., exist within it? You haven't begun to answer this question, which is the core of our argument."

Though I believe the computer does "grasp" the triangle well enough to counter your objection, your "grasping" is another name for awareness. You're hung-up on awareness. Your real issue is not about abstractions, but awareness itself. All the talk about abstractions has been tangential at best.



Anonymous said...


Since it can locate any triangle the triangle-spotting computer definitely does strip away all particular and individual aspects. So it meets the criteria.

And it's locating of triangles is entirely derivative, so it does not know universals, or it would simply prove that a computer had an immaterial mind as we do.


Fallacy of composition.

Nonsense. Fallacies of composition apply when we have good reason to think there is a property that applies to the whole that doesn't apply to the parts. But it is obviously quite normal to say that 2+2=4, and not 5 or 123. If we have a wall that is made of red bricks, then we have a red wall. Our thought would fall apart if we always applied the fallacy of composition. You have resolutely defined all stages of the process in question as particular and individual. This rules out any role for the abstract and universal, and bleeting about fallacies of composition does not help you. You would at least need to show where there is room for fallacy of composition. Where can a quality not in the parts come into the whole in your argument. It is simply the case there is no such place - you rule out entirely anything abstract and universal, even in the final stage (at times at least).

Besides, I could turn that nonsense against you: Immaterial "mind" can't have location, therefore it cannot affect the material world. It would have to have location to do that.

This is just a question begging assertion. It would require actual argument to support. Besides the materialist, being most likely a Humean, already admits they don't know how one material thing has an effect (acts as a cause) on another, so I don't see the an immaterial mind would be in any different position.


Your concept of a triangle is also derivative. You did not independently invent the concept of triangles or trigonometry.

Do you think this is some kind of proper response? I have knowledge of the abstract and universal concepts involved. A computer doesn't. It doesn't understand or have aware of the patterns it locates. It is simply programmed. You are obviously equivocating in your use of the term derivative.

The best answer I can give (and kind gave already) is this: The process of abstraction is just a stripping away of irrelevant data, leaving only the pertinent data, which is virtually the same as your "All the particular and individual aspects must be stripped away."

The pertinent data includes location, size, and so on. As a material computer, or brain, has these, the abstract, universal concept cannot be understood only by them. You make no proper response to this point (nonsense about fallacies of composition notwithstanding).


That's no parallel to my example of a computer finding triangles on its own.
Who says? You give no explanation or argument here. A computer is programmed by a human; a stick is used by one. What is the relevant difference?

All the talk about abstractions has been tangential at best.

As I keep saying, you seem to have some great problem in following basic points. That I'm talking about abstract concepts is very important. My argument (or the argument made by many others) shows that we understand or are a aware of entities that cannot be material, and therefore our minds, or parts of them, are immaterial. You have made no proper response.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- that should be, because a material computer, or brain, has location, size, and so on, it cannot strip these qualities away, and therefore cannot contain or be aware of abstract, universal concepts.

Really, the argument is simple. Universals, by definition, are abstracted from all particular and individual qualities (such as location, size, and so on). What grasps and understands them cannot have these particular and individual qualities, or the qualities would not be abstracted from the universal. And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual. Therefore, in grasping and understanding universals, we must make use of a immaterial mind.

You have made no proper response to this argument at all.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"This is just a question begging assertion. It would require actual argument to support."

Of course it is. Ditto, ditto with your assertion.


"because a material computer, or brain, has location, size, and so on, it cannot strip these qualities away, and therefore cannot contain or be aware of abstract, universal concepts."

You cannot reasonably deny the fact that a computer that successfully finds *any* triangle in an input stream does strip away location, size, and so on from its decision process. It identifies particular instances of triangles based on an abstract (aka, "universal") definition. It's an empirical fact that computers do these things very successfully. The computer definitely "contains" the abstract definition. The programmer carefully put that definition there, just like a school teacher carefully puts definitions (abstracts) into the minds of his students. A computer is an ideal student. I'm not equivocating on "derivative" at all. You're simply wrong if you think that you aren't indebted to others for your abstraction of triangles.

But, as I've already mentioned, your characterization of abstracts is also misleading. Definitions *do* have "location, size, and so on" as patterns in our brain and instructions in a computer.

The computer does not have to "know" triangles as you personally know them. That sort of subjective knowing is an entirely separate issue.


"or it would simply prove that a computer had an immaterial mind as we do."

You're saying that even if a 100% material computer could convince you that it subjectively knew as you do, you would still clutch onto your dualism with the bizarre claim that somehow we had stuffed immaterial substance into it. That's a particularly strident question begging stance.


"Fallacies of composition apply when we have good reason to think there is a property that applies to the whole that doesn't apply to the parts."

But you're no judge for that good reason. I think there is very good reason to think systems exhibit properties that the individual parts do not. The parts of an engine are not capable of powering a car. But the whole, properly assembled, is. The point is, your reasoning does not follow. There's no necessity in it.

But more importantly, I've also shown that your reasoning is self-defeating. Your "mind" or "soul" is *also* individual and particular. So if they are particular and individual, this rules out any role for the abstract and universal. Your dualism falls with materialism.


Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

So the stick I knock on the ground each time I see a triangle understands the abstract concept of a triangle? My understanding of triangles is derivative in this sense? You are equivocating. I understand universals. A computer no more understands them than the stick does. You seem to be saying that anything we program or use in some way to respond to patterns, must understand abstract concepts. That is nonsense. You really need to stop talking nonsense.


But you're no judge for that good reason. I think there is very good reason to think systems exhibit properties that the individual parts do not. The parts of an engine are not capable of powering a car. But the whole, properly assembled, is. The point is, your reasoning does not follow. There's no necessity in it.

There is good reason to think they can't exhibit properties you resolutely deny to them. If you say that at all times the system and its parts are particular and individual, there is no room for the universal and abstract. If the particular and individual create a system that can contain what is universal and abstract, that is just another way of saying that in some sense something immaterial emerges.

The bottom line, is at no time do you explain how a material thing can understand what is universal and abstract. You try to make use of dubious examples, but this is not an explanation, as you undermine all explanation. It is not enough to point to some too we use to respond to patterns.


Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"So the stick I knock on the ground each time I see a triangle understands the abstract concept of a triangle?"

I've already told you, understanding is not necessary. Using that example sure doesn't help your case. I ignored it previously because I do try to keep things brief. This is what you wrote: "I could hit the floor with a stick each time I see a triangle. This wouldn't show the stick had grasped what a triangle is." But in that scenario, it's you seeing and recognizing the triangle, not the stick. You would take the place of the computer. The stick does not. Your bizarre tactic is to claim the computer, supposedly being "derivative", does not do the seeing and the deciding, does not execute the if-then-else statements. But it does. Once the programmer has done his job, the computer is its own agent. If I were to adjust your example to be closer to mine, you would be the stick and your teachers would be you. I would rob you of your agency. That would be as ridiculous as your example.

"You seem to be saying that anything we program or use in some way to respond to patterns, must understand abstract concepts."

It doesn't seem to matter what I say since you refuse to understand it. I specifically said understanding is irrelevant. There is no requirement that the thing doing the abstraction understands what it is doing. You're conflating two separate issues. Besides, you assume you know what understanding means and I doubt that is true.

"If the particular and individual create a system that can contain what is universal and abstract, that is just another way of saying that in some sense something immaterial emerges."

You keep insisting on begging the question. Plus you ignored the fact that your argument is self-defeating.



Glenn said...

A simple QBasic program:

5 CLS
10 x = 2 : GOSUB 100
20 x = 3 : GOSUB 100
30 GOSUB 500
40 END
50 '
100 IF (x < 3 OR x > 3) THEN GOSUB 200 ELSE GOSUB 300
101 RETURN
102 '
200 PRINT "I have determined that the value of X is not 3."
201 PRINT : RETURN
202 '
300 PRINT "I notice that the value of X has changed, and have successfully determined that its value now is 3."
301 PRINT : RETURN
302 '
500 PRINT "This little demonstration has been designed to satisfy the simple-minded, as well as the fallacy-prone, that the abstract concept of 3, or the abstraction known to humans as 3, is concretized either in my circuits or in the code executed by my circuits."
501 RETURN

Glenn said...

Lest it not be obvious, I was making fun of DJ's claims.

The life of a materialist is hard one (no pun intended), for he either has to deny the reality of abstractions or commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

(But it should be noted that some materialists, such as, e.g., DJ, are sufficiently talented and capable that they can do both simultaneously.)

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

"(But it should be noted that some materialists, such as, e.g., DJ, are sufficiently talented and capable that they can do both simultaneously.)"

Funny. I like that even though I dispute my talent for it.

But I'll offer an alternative view. Quite possibly the majority of philosophers who have pondered the abstract keep committing Dewey's "philosophical fallacy." Or, better yet, I'll invent a fallacy of my own. It's called The Fallacy of Infinite Abstractions. To avoid this fallacy one has to remember that somewhere, somehow a chain of abstractions must end in something more than yet another vague abstraction.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Glenn,

The problem is that Don is a self-parody to begin with.

DJ,

But in that scenario, it's you seeing and recognizing the triangle, not the stick. You would take the place of the computer. The stick does not. Your bizarre tactic is to claim the computer, supposedly being "derivative", does not do the seeing and the deciding, does not execute the if-then-else statements. But it does. Once the programmer has done his job, the computer is its own agent. If I were to adjust your example to be closer to mine, you would be the stick and your teachers would be you. I would rob you of your agency. That would be as ridiculous as your example.

Even you must know that you're talking nonsense here. You make no proper argument to show why a tool is not still a tool, even if the programmer is not present. The computer's pattern finding is completely derivative. If it were programmed to recognise triangles and a few squares, as triangles, it would never know the difference. A person, or at least most people, can recognise the difference between squares and triangles, even if they weren't taught them. Indeed, even if you were right about our knowledge being derivative, it would only show that mathematicians, or at least the discover of abstract and universal concepts in each case, knew them in a non-derivative fashion, however the rest of us do.

And knowledge is vital to the whole point. The point is simply that, like the stick, reaction to patterns doesn't matter. What matters is that people can actually know them. These people understand, and must contain or have access to, abstract concepts. Computers, like sticks, don't have such access. Absolutely nothing you have said shows this is incorrect. As usual, you are just painfully confused.


You keep insisting on begging the question. Plus you ignored the fact that your argument is self-defeating.
If this is so, it would be good of you to, you know, actually show it. At the moment, you have done no such thing. You have just made endless confused points, committed gross fallacies, and generally acted like a pillock, to use an English word.

I will repost the main argument, just so you remember what you have to respond to, as you have doesn't so properly yet. If you cannot soon, we will have to conclude you have no such response (well, to be honest, this was clear from the beginning):


Really, the argument is simple. Universals, by definition, are abstracted from all particular and individual qualities (such as location, size, and so on). What grasps and understands them cannot have these particular and individual qualities, or the qualities would not be abstracted from the universal. And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual. Therefore, in grasping and understanding universals, we must make use of a immaterial mind.

I would suggest (though I'm probably wasting my time), you do some actual reading on this subject. Perhaps you could actually read Dr. Feser's posts, because it doesn't seem like you do. Mortimer Adler's Mind Over Matter is also a good introduction to this very argument.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"If it were programmed to recognise triangles and a few squares, as triangles, it would never know the difference."

I've already told you that knowing is a separate issue. There is no reason an abstracting device has to know what it is doing.


"A person, or at least most people, can recognise the difference between squares and triangles, even if they weren't taught them."

A person taught only to recognize triangles and not squares would not recognize the difference between triangles and squares, but between triangles and non-triangles -- that is, between triangles and noise. Same as the computer.


"Indeed, even if you were right about our knowledge being derivative, it would only show that mathematicians, or at least the discover of abstract and universal concepts in each case, knew them in a non-derivative fashion, however the rest of us do."

Absolutely. The inspiration or desire to invent is not currently a task computers can do. But this is another issue. It's not abstraction. It's not a requirement for abstraction.


"What matters is that people can actually know them."

This is not true. And it's why we will not see eye-to-eye.

The problem is one of definition: What does abstraction really mean? We cannot agree on what the terms mean and how they are connected. Maybe it's because of my computer background. In my profession we abstract problems. We get computers to do it as a mechanical operation. My habit is to break big problems down into easier-to-solve problems that even a computer can do and even I can solve. I think you are stuck in a confused semantic mess that you need to break down. That's the source of your confusion.


"And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual.

Souls and minds are particular and individual. You defeat your own argument. The dualist is left standing in the cold with the materialist.


"I would suggest (though I'm probably wasting my time), you do some actual reading on this subject."

I would suggest you do some actual *thinking* on this subject.


Jeremy Taylor said...

There is no reason an abstracting device has to know what it is doing.

It must be able to actually grasp or have awareness of universals; otherwise, it is just like the stick I hit the floor with when I see a triangle. You have made no proper response to this point.


A person taught only to recognize triangles and not squares would not recognize the difference between triangles and squares, but between triangles and non-triangles -- that is, between triangles and noise. Same as the computer.

Actually, a person would recognise the difference, and those with sufficient intelligence may come to a conclusion about the nature of squares as well as triangles. A computer cannot do this without human programmer. You have not differentiate in a meaningful way between the computer and the stick.

The problem is one of definition: What does abstraction really mean? We cannot agree on what the terms mean and how they are connected. Maybe it's because of my computer background. In my profession we abstract problems. We get computers to do it as a mechanical operation. My habit is to break big problems down into easier-to-solve problems that even a computer can do and even I can solve. I think you are stuck in a confused semantic mess that you need to break down. That's the source of your confusion.

The problem is you are an ignoramus who doesn't seem to be able to follow basic points and engages in gross fallacies all over the place. I will repeat my original argument, as in no sense has you responded to it:



Really, the argument is simple. Universals, by definition, are abstracted from all particular and individual qualities (such as location, size, and so on). What grasps and understands them cannot have these particular and individual qualities, or the qualities would not be abstracted from the universal. And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual. Therefore, in grasping and understanding universals, we must make use of a immaterial mind.

Souls and minds are particular and individual. You defeat your own argument. The dualist is left standing in the cold with the materialist.

So we can add dualism to the long list of things you know little about but think you can pontificate on.


Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

Since you insist on confusing abstraction with several other human attributes, there's not much point in continuing with that discussion. We're just repeating ourselves. But please do tell me how your mind and soul are not individual and particular. Until you dig yourself out of that hole your argument against materialism defeats your dualism. That alone is sufficient to reject your line of reasoning.

Jeremy Taylor said...

I will be more than happy to teach you the first thing about a position you seem quite confident to spout off about already.

But only if you can make a proper response to my argument. You haven't actually done so yet. I will repost it, to help you out:


Really, the argument is simple. Universals, by definition, are abstracted from all particular and individual qualities (such as location, size, and so on). What grasps and understands them cannot have these particular and individual qualities, or the qualities would not be abstracted from the universal. And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual. Therefore, in grasping and understanding universals, we must make use of a immaterial mind.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

I read Adler's chapter, "Is Intellect Immaterial?" in the book you suggested. He makes the same silly argument you do. Here's an example of his sloppy thinking:

"Let a surgeon open up an individual’s brain for inspection while the patient remains conscious. Let the surgeon dictate to a secretary his detailed observation of the visible area of the brain under scrutiny, and let that area of the brain be its center for vision. Let the patient dictate to another secretary a detailed description of the visible walls of the room in which the surgery is occurring.

The language used by the surgeon and the language used by the patient will be irreducibly different: the one will contain words referring to physical phenomena occurring in the brain; the other, words referring to conscious experiences of the room. The extreme monism that asserts not only the existential unity of brain and mind, but also that there is no analytical distinction between them, thus be comes untenable."


I suppose he thinks the surgeon is qualified to find "mind" like a carpenter is qualified to take his hammer and smash a computer looking for a program. Of course neither can find what's there.

His argument is based on ignorance.

I'd ask him the same question you refuse to answer: How is Adler's mind and soul not individual and particular? I am not Adler. He is not you. You are not me. We are individual and particular instances of "mind." Therefore Adler's argument defeats his argument. I need say nothing more than that because it's devastating.

Jeremy Taylor said...

And no doubt Adler would reply by asking you whether you had ever considered doing something about your remedial reading comprehension.

He'd also say that I was wrong, and that I should have recommended to you a book like this:

https://www.amazon.com/Introduction-Logic-Irving-M-Copi/dp/0205820379/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1478724293&sr=1-1&keywords=copi

(this is no doubt where you offer the stunning revelation that Copi too is a full and you have refuted his whole book - I do remember you once tried to refute the syllogism!)

By the way, it must have just slipped your mind, but you have failed to make any proper response to my argument. I will repost, to help you out:


Really, the argument is simple. Universals, by definition, are abstracted from all particular and individual qualities (such as location, size, and so on). What grasps and understands them cannot have these particular and individual qualities, or the qualities would not be abstracted from the universal. And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual. Therefore, in grasping and understanding universals, we must make use of a immaterial mind.

Jim S. said...

In his Long Commentary on De Anima, Averroes argues for an immaterial analogue to matter. Maybe that can make a claim to being the "ectoplasm" the materialists are so desperate to mock.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"And no doubt Adler would reply by asking you whether you had ever considered doing something about your remedial reading comprehension."

If he did, it would be to avoid the issue, as you are avoiding it.

Last night I noticed a spider in the kitchen. I normally let spiders be as long as they stay out of my way. I didn't bother this one. But it got me to thinking about spider webs.

We have an abstract called spider web. But it comes from what spiders do.

That's curious. If we have this fancy abstract in our heads, something so fancy and mysterious we have to use immaterial xstuff to account for it, what does a spider use to account for it? Does it have that same xstuff? If it doesn't, how can it be that a simple insect brain can produce an infinite variety of spider webs but does not need to resort to xstuff to explain how? -- yet we, mere observers of the process, need that xstuff to explain what the spider does so simply, naturally and materially? Either a material cause generates a material effect, or we have an uncaused effect in us called a "universal spider web." I suggest that this contradicts the common view around here. Effects always need a cause. An immaterial abstract that pops out of nowhere appears to lack cause. We have to add to Aristotle's five causes a sixth one -- phantom cause. I claim credit for this invention. In 2000 years please remember that.


Don Jindra said...

Oops! That should be four and five causes. No doubt my errors will last 2000 years too.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Don,

It seems like you inadvertently failed to answer my points, for dozens of posts. I will just repost my basic argument. I have no doubt you will rectify your mistake as soon as you are able, so I will repost my argument:


Really, the argument is simple. Universals, by definition, are abstracted from all particular and individual qualities (such as location, size, and so on). What grasps and understands them cannot have these particular and individual qualities, or the qualities would not be abstracted from the universal. And material brains (or computers) are particular and individual. Therefore, in grasping and understanding universals, we must make use of a immaterial mind.

Jeremy Taylor said...

- Also, in your latest post, it looks like you spilt something quite a lot like complete sophistry and idiocy all over the place. You may wish to clear that up. It certainly isn't the first time you've been this clumsy.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

The thing is, your question throws misunderstood concepts on the table then reads them like tarot cards. Neither 'abstraction' nor 'universal' strip away all 'particular and individual qualities.' If they did, there would be nothing left. The concept would have no content, no meaning. Abstraction strips away only those 'particular and individual qualities' that have nothing to do with the item(s) of interest. In the case of a triangle, straight lines, points and angles in 3's remain. But they do remain and as a collection they are 'particular and individual' to triangles. If they were not, we could not distinguish between triangles and circles.

Now you could and should say a line is also an abstraction, not being 'particular and individual' in theory. You might be tempted to celebrate that fact and declare early victory. But that abstraction of a line didn't just pop in there. It can't be imagined without familiarity with two dimensions, for example. The process of how 'line' got into the brain is a clue you abuse 'particular and individual' in the first place.

Is there, in fact, *anything* in your brain that is not an abstraction? Is there anything in a spider's brain that isn't an abstraction? Do you suppose when it plots to catch a fly, a spider has a few thousand fly examples in its brain to do a comparison check? Does it have a few thousand fixed web designs? A spider spins whatever web fits the circumstances. It can do that because its brain has an abstract, likely instinctual, 'model' of what it must do. You seem to think abstraction is a unique humans ability. We're great at it, but *all* brains are designed to abstract reality in one form or another. No brain 'sees' reality in its pure form. All brains get signals that represent an 'image' of reality. From those 'particular and individual' signals it builds an imperfect, neurological representation of reality, whether learned by individuals or evolved in a species. That imperfect representation is known as an abstraction. That abstraction is just as 'particular and individual' as the reality it imperfectly senses and imperfectly models.

I propose an experiment. Show a toddler green apples until she 'grasps' the 'universal' apple. It won't take long. Then show her a red apple and a green pear. Will she, a bit confused, say neither are an apple? or both? or just one of the two? Is greenness or shape the more important aspect of her notion of apples? That would be interesting to know. When she makes a mistake, correct her. Suddenly her abstraction of apples is refined to your liking. Noise has been stripped from the signal. 'Particular and individual' neurons were aligned to filter out this noise. Abstraction is merely a series of these mechanical, subtractive operations. In humans it's most often guided by parents and teachers and play. 'Universals' over time tend to become more ideal, more 'pure', less disrupted by noise, maybe even less close to an actual reality -- like your notions of 'universal' and 'particular' and 'know' and 'abstraction' itself.

What you claim is universal is actually provisional, individual, even idiosyncratic. It's learned. It's universal only in the most philosophically trivial sense. This is especially true of your abstraction called 'mind'. For some unexplained reason you think 'mind' is not as 'particular and individual' as a brain or an apple. We need to be mindful of these idiosyncratic meanings. Semantics is not reality.

You say your question is simple. I say its both over-thought and semantically confused. Even then the conclusion doesn't follow. Pointing out this confusion is and has been my answer.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Abstraction strips away only those 'particular and individual qualities' that have nothing to do with the item(s) of interest. In the case of a triangle, straight lines, points and angles in 3's remain.

Where do perfectly straight lines or mathematical points exist in the material world? Where do these abstractions exist materially? That is, how can a material triangle exist without particular extension or location or shape (equilateral, etc) or material?

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

You're trying to make an issue out of the fact that line models in our head and what we call lines located in 'reality' are not identical and therefore cannot occupy the same space. A collection of neurons in our head is 'identical and particular' in our head, therefore it cannot be identical with something located somewhere else. If I'm right about a line being located in material collections of neurons, it's to be expected that the same line model would not be anywhere else.

Jeremy Taylor said...

But you admit that we, and of course mathematicians, know and make use of the concept of a perfectly straight line, a mathematical point, and the abstract concept of a triangle without any particular extension or location or shape (equilateral, etc) or material?

I don't think you can differentiate between the head and what you call reality in the way you are. For you, as a materialist, the brain is equally material. So you have to either give up on perfectly straight lines, mathematical points, or the abstract concepts of a triangle (completely without particular extension, etc) or you have to answer where they exist materially. If you answer is they exist in the head, and this has different properties to the material world, it does seem you are in fact a dualist after all.

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"If you answer is they exist in the head, and this has different properties to the material world, it does seem you are in fact a dualist after all."

I've consistently said I believe abstraction is a mechanical process. So the abstractions that happen in our head have no properties that differ from the material world. Yes, the concept of straight lines exists materially and mechanically in our brain, like the concept of a triangle-spotting computer exists in the computer. Now, you can claim that the computer has no 'concept' like we do, but I doubt you'll be able to prove that. It's these big, poorly defined words that keep getting in the way. I say they are fundamentally about simple things which philosophers inflate into vague, impossibly understood monstrosities.



Jeremy Taylor said...

But you don't say how they exist materially. The concept of a triangle has no extension. How does this exist materially, when what is material has extension? To say it does or even to point to computers does not answer this. The same goes for a perfectly straight line or a mathematical point. I'm asking for some sort of actual explanation of how these might exist materially, rather than just the claim they do. Where in the material universe might I encounter a perfectly straight line or a mathematical point?

Don Jindra said...

Jeremy Taylor,

"I'm asking for some sort of actual explanation of how these might exist materially, rather than just the claim they do."

Canny edge detection and Marr-Hildreth edge detection, etc. are totally material. Apply Bresenham's line algorithm to see if they're straight -- in spec, that is. You ask a question that's easily answered by familiarity with software engineering.

Glenn said...

Canny edge detection and Marr-Hildreth edge detection, etc. are totally material.

How much do they weigh? What is their value per cubic yard in the recycling industry?

grodrigues said...

"You ask a question that's easily answered by familiarity with software engineering."

Your answer shows your complete and utter cluelessness about everything.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

But that doesn't answer how perfectly straight lines, mathematical points, or anything without extension exists within a computer. You think computer's can be aware or in sense contain these, as our minds can. But you haven't explained how they can. You have just pointed to highly controversial readings of the outcomes of programming you think show they must be. But I'm looking for an explanation of how a computer could be aware or grasp these abtract things. Pointing to programming obviously doesn't help, as it just pushes the problem back a stage.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

How much do Canny edge detection and Marr-Hildreth edge detection weigh? It depends on implementation. Computers have gotten small, but they do weigh something. OTOH, I am curious if you can find an implementation of these abstraction algorithms in a vacuum.


Jeremy Taylor,

"But I'm looking for an explanation of how a computer could be aware or grasp these abstract things."

Awareness and 'grasping' could be different things. But the computer doesn't have to do either to defeat your argument. I merely have to show that abstraction can functionally take place in a material device.

Nevertheless...

When we 'grasp' something, what is it we grasp? When we say we understand something, maybe we're really saying our abstractions seem to be complete. The old data fits the abstraction and new data is expected to do the same.

I'll return to my earlier experiment. The toddler thinks she 'grasps' the abstraction called 'apple' when she's shown 3 green apples. When shown a pear, if she thinks that's an apple too, what did she grasp?

'Grasping' or understanding may be what happens when our abstractions do what we expect of them based on past experience, whether or not that experience was naturally or artificially taught. So asking me to explain how a computer could 'grasp' abstract things, like lines, is equivalent to asking how a computer could be programmed to detect any line. For that, one merely has to see that the algorithms work.

Don Jindra said...

grodrigues,

Adler, a better advocate for Jeremy's position, wrote, "Strictly speaking, if two things can be distinguished in any way, even if it is only by the fact of their twoness, they are not identical."

Their whole argument hinges on the assertion that the particular cannot give birth to a so-called universal (abstraction). Yet if body is particular while mind is universal, that means our mind are, in Adler's words, "strictly speaking," identical. Maybe I am clueless. But for your sake you ought to be taking my position on this issue. Otherwise you're asserting my mind is your mind, and exactly as clueless. I would think that's kind of unfortunate from your POV.

grodrigues said...

@Don Jindra:

"Their whole argument hinges on the assertion that the particular cannot give birth to a so-called universal (abstraction). Yet if body is particular while mind is universal, that means our mind are, in Adler's words, "strictly speaking," identical."

I do not know what "the particular cannot give birth to a so-called universal" means, nor do you I must add. Neither does the argument Adler gives, or the one Jeremy gave, implies that the mind is a universal. Jeremy's mind is his own, just like my mind is my own, they are particulars not universals. No one here disputed that.

"Maybe I am clueless. But for your sake you ought to be taking my position on this issue."

Yes, you are clueless. To think that some bit of Engineering knowledge can answer a philosophical question is a sure sign of cluelessness. As far as your concern for me, I appreciate it, but it is not me that needs help. The fact is that this thread demonstrates ad nauseam that your position is incoherent and that you cannot mount the barest semblance of an argument. As one example, here is this gem of yours:

"How much do Canny edge detection and Marr-Hildreth edge detection weigh? It depends on implementation. Computers have gotten small, but they do weigh something."

This is completely idiotic. An algorithm is as much an abstraction as Turing machines, Hilbert spaces, lines or what have you. It is not the sort of object that has a weight or location like material objects do. Something even you, amidst all the confusion, implicitly concede when you say that it "depends on the implementation", that is, it depends on the physical instantiation. This is like saying yes, the universal White has a wheight, it depends on the weight of the white thing. Facepalm. And then go on and pile idiocy over idiocy by identifying the weight of the algorithm with the weight of the computer device housing the implementation.

You engaged in name dropping; I can do that as well. Canny edge or Marr-Hildreth are algorithms for approximately detecting edges in pictures. The "approximately" there already sinks your "modest proposal" a thousand miles deep because this would imply that we only grasp universals approximately, which is to say we do not grasp them at all. But even if we let this detail pass by, the matter of fact is that this has absolutely nothing to do with grasping universals or, say, what a line is. To give an algorithm, implementations of which are human artifacts designed by human intelligence to answer human concerns, for approximately detecting lines is not the same thing as explaining how purely material objects can grasp the concept of line.

Take the Marr-Hildreth edge detection. It is based on convolving the image with the Laplacian of the Gaussian function. Convolving is an integral operation on functions and provides an algebra structure for certain infinite-dimensional spaces. So tell us how these infinite dimensional spaces, integral transforms, the Laplacian (another operator), the Gaussian, etc. are "implemented materially". Taking into account that most of these objects are not in any reasonable sense computable ones, this will be a tad difficult, but you are the Engineering Expert here so I am sure you will have an easy Engineering Answer. Me, I am just going to fetch me some popcorn as this will be truly hilarious.

Don Jindra said...

"Jeremy's mind is his own, just like my mind is my own, they are particulars not universals. No one here disputed that."

Exactly! That fact destroys Adler's and Jeremy's case. That is my very point. Their line of reasoning is self-refuting. If the 'individual and particular' of material things creates a problem for a materialist understanding of universals or abstractions, then 'mind' and 'soul' -- likewise being 'individual and particular' -- will pose the same problem.

Since you agree here there's no point in addressing the other issues.

grodrigues said...

@Don Jindra:

"Exactly! That fact destroys Adler's and Jeremy's case. That is my very point. Their line of reasoning is self-refuting."

Sigh. What don't you understand about "Neither does the argument Adler gives, or the one Jeremy gave, implies that the mind is a universal. Jeremy's mind is his own, just like my mind is my own, they are particulars not universals. No one here disputed that."? The crux of the argument is *NOT* what you take it to be. Period, end of story.

Any more cluelessness you care to share with us?

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,

Awareness and 'grasping' could be different things. But the computer doesn't have to do either to defeat your argument. I merely have to show that abstraction can functionally take place in a material device.

What you are supposed to be showing is that the human knowledge of abstract, universal principles - here the abstract concept of a triangle (which entirely lacks extension, etc.), as well as things like mathematical points and perfectly straight lines - is an entirely material process, despite the fact that our normal understanding of matter rules this out (all matter has extension, for example, and there are no perfectly straight lines in the material word).

You must bring your computer example back to this. At the moment, all you are doing is pointing to the outcomes of computer programmes - the ability to pick out triangles - and saying this explains the human ability to understand universals is material. This is hugely controversial, for the reasons given above. But, more importantly, it doesn't actually explain how the what doesn't seem material - like an abstract concept without extension or a perfectly straight line - becomes so. I'm looking for an explanation of this. Talking more deeply about programming, on its own, doesn't provide this explanation.

Glenn said...

(DJ,

(How much do Canny edge detection and Marr-Hildreth edge detection weigh? It depends on implementation. Computers have gotten small, but they do weigh something. OTOH, I am curious if you can find an implementation of these abstraction algorithms in a vacuum.

(I will satisfy your curiosity with the same seriousness with which you addressed my questions: if it is true that you can think of an implementation of those abstraction algorithms, then it must be true that they can exist in a vacuum.)

Don Jindra said...

grodrigues,

You should try following an argument. The crux of the argument is the assertion that what is 'individual and particular' cannot produce or explain the universal. I agree Jeremy does not imply the mind is universal. It's just as 'particular and individual' as anything material. Therefore neither is universal. Not mind, not the material. So *any* argument that uses 'individual and particular' applies equally to mind, whether it's considered material or not. Jeremy's argument defeats his own dualism. It's as simple and straightforward as that.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

Although I admit a tendency toward sarcasm, I answered your question in total seriousness. You'll be unable to find an algorithm that can be isolated from any sort of material implementation.

grodrigues said...

@Don Jindra:

"So *any* argument that uses 'individual and particular' applies equally to mind, whether it's considered material or not. Jeremy's argument defeats his own dualism. It's as simple and straightforward as that."

Quite obviously you do not know how arguments work. Not surprising I should add.

In order to show the alleged self-refuting status, you have to show that what the argument purports to conclude about material objects also applies to minds, and not just the dualist conceptions of it as Jeremy entertains (I think he is a Platonist, but he can correct me on that), but to *all* non-material conceptions of mind, since the argument at no point invokes dualism (e.g. Adler was not a dualist but an Aristotelean). You have not shown any of this. Mumbling "*any* argument that uses 'individual and particular' applies equally to mind", which is *false*, does not get you any closer to establishing what you want. And of course, you will not establish it, because you have no friggin' clue what the argument really is. The argument is not simply of case of saying the material is particular therefore it cannot (whatever it is that you think the argument says, "give birth" or whatever, to) the universal, which is what you would need to deduce the fact that minds, in virtue of being particulars, also cannot (whatever it is that you think the argument says, "give birth" or whatever, to) the universal.

"It's as simple and straightforward as that."

Yes, you are clueless.

Glenn said...

DJ,

Although I admit a tendency toward sarcasm, I answered your question in total seriousness.

Well, then, kindly advise when you have successfully procured a patent for your Method For Determining the Physical Weight of an Algorithm.

You'll be unable to find an algorithm that can be isolated from any sort of material implementation.

By the very act of referring to an implementation of an X, you acknowledge the existence of that X. That that X cannot be detected or found by material or empirical means is not a problem for the non-materialist, but for the materialist himself (who, it may be recalled, acknowledges its existence (by the very act of referring to an implementation of it)).

As Jeremy has indicated previously, you are your own parody.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ writes,

You should try following an argument. The crux of the argument is the assertion that what is 'individual and particular' cannot produce or explain the universal. I agree Jeremy does not imply the mind is universal. It's just as 'particular and individual' as anything material. Therefore neither is universal. Not mind, not the material. So *any* argument that uses 'individual and particular' applies equally to mind, whether it's considered material or not. Jeremy's argument defeats his own dualism. It's as simple and straightforward as that.

Forgot all this. Forget the terms particular, individual, universal for now. You clearly have a huge time understanding even basic aspects of what you are attacking. So let us focus on an even narrower frame of reference:

Let's start with the concepts of a triangle entirely lacking extension and so on, and geometric points, and perfectly straight lines. These don't exist materially. How do we know of them?

Your computer example doesn't explain this. It shows an outcome you think, highly controversially, shows a computer must grasp these concepts in a way analogous to our understanding of them. But, leaving aside all the problems cited above (the derivative nature of the computer's programming and the like), you fundamentally don't show how what doesn't seem material (concepts without basic material properties, like extension, perfectly straight lines, geometric points) can exist materially. There's no explanation you give of the only part of the process that could really matter to us - how what seems not to be material is made material. To speak of functionality solves nothing as it doesn't speak to the underlying medium through which the function is carried out (one is reminded of Searle's quip that "If you are tempted to functionalism, I believe you do not need refutation, you need help.”).

Don Jindra said...

grodrigues,

"In order to show the alleged self-refuting status, you have to show that what the argument purports to conclude about material objects also applies to minds,"

Yeah, the old double-standard -- not the first time someone has tried to slip that one past me.

The reasoning in question is not mine. Jeremy and Adler must show why a double-standard is reasonable in this case. All I have to do is point out that it relies on a double standard. I take it for granted that double-standards are inherently flawed.


"The argument is not simply of case of saying the material is particular therefore it cannot (whatever it is that you think the argument says, 'give birth' or whatever, to) the universal, which is what you would need to deduce the fact that minds, in virtue of being particulars, also cannot (whatever it is that you think the argument says, 'give birth' or whatever, to) the universal."

There is no deduction by Adler or Jeremy that the material, in virtue of being particular, cannot explain or produce the universal. I've pointed this out. I've also pointed out that it's a fallacy of composition. The conclusion does not follow. Yet I'm to be the one who has to deduce that mind, in virtue of being particular, cannot explain or produce the universal.

Yet another double-standard.

Furthermore, I would argue deduction is useless and meaningless in both of these cases.

Nevertheless, perhaps you should show me your deduction that a double-standard is a valid form of reasoning.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn.

You are mistaken. I can detect and find that X by empirical means. I've done that often with tools like a J-link debugger/probe. I've dumped memory contents and disassembled the raw data with the goal of finding an algorithm you say I can't find. But I have found it. Perhaps this explains my optimism about finding the same sort of algorithms in the brain. We just need to invent the appropriate probes.


Jeremy Taylor,

"Let's start with the concepts of a triangle entirely lacking extension and so on, and geometric points, and perfectly straight lines. These don't exist materially. How do we know of them?"

You keep assuming that the concept of triangles, lines and points do not exist materially in our brain. That is a key point I deny. I see no reason to believe that concept exists anywhere but as a specific arrangement of neurons. That collection of neurons has weight and extension.

I believe the stumbling block is this: We do not currently know how to decode that arrangement of neurons. Because of that ignorance, you and others want to assume that the arrangement of neurons cannot explain what they produce. If a person had no knowledge of aerodynamics, he might assume the shape of an airplane cannot explain why it flies. That's how your argument strikes me.

grodrigues said...

@Don Jindra:

"There is no deduction by Adler or Jeremy that the material, in virtue of being particular, cannot explain or produce the universal. I've pointed this out. I've also pointed out that it's a fallacy of composition. The conclusion does not follow. Yet I'm to be the one who has to deduce that mind, in virtue of being particular, cannot explain or produce the universal."

I have just said in the comment you are responding to that the argument is *NOT* that the material, in virtue of being particular, "cannot explain or produce the universal". That was the *whole friggin' point* of the comment. So there is no "double standard", neither have I anywhere said, implied or suggested that "a double-standard is a valid form of reasoning"; nor for that matter, can "double standard" be a form of reasoning, much less a valid one.

At any rate, it is pointless continuing this charade, not even for the benefit of any would-be lurkers. You may even be competent at churning out code, in the same sense that some are competent and can make an honest living from licking stamps or gluing cardboard boxes. But leave philosophical discussion for others.

Anonymous said...

DJ,

You are mistaken. I can detect and find that X by empirical means. I've done that often with tools like a J-link debugger/probe. I've dumped memory contents and disassembled the raw data with the goal of finding an algorithm you say I can't find. But I have found it.

1. Your claim was, "You'll be unable to find an algorithm that can be isolated from any sort of material implementation."

2. I did not not say in response to this that you couldn't find an implementation of an algorithm, and the X to which I referred in my response very clearly was a something separated from its material implementation.

3. If you want to reason from the fact of your having found an implementation of an algorithm that the algorithm itself can be separated from its material implementation, then that's fine with me.

4. But it should be pointed out that to reason from the fact of your having found an implementation of an algorithm that the algorithm itself can be separated from its material implementation, is to effectively reson that your materialistic claim that everything is material is hogwash.

Glenn said...

5. Congratulations. You have succeeded in proving to yourself what we've been telling you all along.

Don Jindra said...

grodrigues,

The double standard has to do with your demand for a line of reasoning from me which you do not demand from the opposing view, and a failure to apply the same standard universally.

Yes, the assertion *is* that the material, in virtue of being particular, cannot explain or produce the universal. I suppose I must elaborate. Jeremy referred me to Adler. So I'll use Adler to help explain his "moderate immaterialism" argument. He begins with the assertion that "intellectual acts and processes cannot be explained in sensory terms and that more than the brain or any other material organ is required for them to occur..."

Adler says the argument hinges on two propositions.

"The first asserts that the concepts whereby we understand what different kinds or classes of things are like consist of meanings that are universal."

I won't quibble with that.

"The second proposition asserts that nothing that exists physically is ever actually universal. Anything that is embodied in matter exists as an individual, a singular thing that may also be a particular instance of this class or that."

But Adler's immaterial concept of his own mind is not universal either. His mind is not your mind. When he says "Anything that is embodied in matter exists as an individual" he ignores the fact that any immaterial aspect of mind also exists as an individual. So whether the item in question is "embodied in matter" or not "embodied in matter," it has no bearing on the argument. It depends only on this notion of instantiation. Is an instance *ever* universal? No, an instance of a universal is a particular. This is true whether the instance is considered material or immaterial. So if this proposition is true, it refutes *both* materialism and Adler's own immateral mind.

Adler next states, "From these two propositions, the conclusion follows that our concepts, having universality, cannot be embodied in matter."

But due to the fact that "embodied in matter" is irrelevant, Adler's is really concluding only this triviality: Concepts, having universality, cannot be particular. His attempt to slip in "embodied in matter" is fraudulent. His very own mind is a singular thing, just as singular as anything embodied in matter. His mind we call Mortimer Adler is a particular instance of the class we call 'mind'. So all of his talk about physical instances merely distracts us from the fact that the same sorts of things can be said of individual minds.

Adler adds a paragraph that purports to explain why common experience tells us that "objects we perceive through our senses are all individual things." Yet he ignore the fact that the minds I talk to are likewise perceived through my senses as individual things. Nevertheless, he concludes from this:

"Whatever exists physically exists as an individual, and whatever has individuality exists materially."

Applying that to instances of mind. all he has shown is that the individual minds I talk to must also exist materially.

Don Jindra said...

Glenn,

When I use a j-link debugger to find that algorithm, I'm not isolating it from any sort of material implementation. I'm locating that very algorithm as it actually exists in the only form it can exist as part of a larger system. My assumption is that the particular computer or copies thereof are material, and the contents are material. The only way to remove the algorithm is to overwrite the hardware implementation itself. Just to avoid confusion, I'm saying that X cannot be isolated from the hardware in the sense you need it to be. I'm saying something like this: If the doctor cuts open the patient and removes the heart, sure, he has isolated the heart from the body. But he has killed the patient and disabled the function of the heart. I can see the "hylemorphic dualism" analogy coming into play here but that is not what I mean since the "heart" is in my mind sensible.

Glenn said...

DJ,

When I use a j-link debugger to find that algorithm...

...you are finding an instance, instantiation or implementation of an algorithm.

The only way to remove the algorithm is to overwrite the hardware implementation itself.

To overwrite the hardware implementation of the algorithm is to remove an instance, instantiation or implementation of that algorithm, and not to render the algorithm itself, as distinguished from some implementation of it, non-existent.

Just to avoid confusion, I'm saying that X cannot be isolated from the hardware in the sense you need it to be.

X is isolated from the hardware in the sense I need it to be. For were that not the case, it would not have been possible for it to have been implemented in hardware in the first place.

grodrigues said...

For the benefit of any lurkers.

@Don Jondra:

"The double standard has to do with your demand for a line of reasoning from me which you do not demand from the opposing view, and a failure to apply the same standard universally."

I have already responded to this, predictably it all flew by you.

"Yes, the assertion *is* that the material, in virtue of being particular, cannot explain or produce the universal."

No it is not, you do not know what you are talking about.

"When he says "Anything that is embodied in matter exists as an individual" he ignores the fact that any immaterial aspect of mind also exists as an individual. So whether the item in question is "embodied in matter" or not "embodied in matter," it has no bearing on the argument."

Wrong, you have things precisely backwards. It is the fact that matter can only receive a form by instantiating it that generates the problem. Quite obviously, minds *CANNOT* and do *NOT* receive forms as matter does by instantiating them, that is the point of the whole argument. Adler is an Aristotelean and this is *standard* Aristotelean fare.

Please do yourself a favor: leave philosophical discussion for others.

Glenn said...

DJ,

"Whatever exists physically exists as an individual, and whatever has individuality exists materially."

Applying that to instances of mind. all he has shown is that the individual minds I talk to must also exist materially.


You are confused. (What else is new?)

Adler's "Whatever exists physically exists as an individual, and whatever has individuality exists materially," is a summary statement, and is spoken in regard to a very particular proposition -- which very particular proposition is, as he clearly states, "about the individuality of all material or corporeal things". (Emphasis added.)

So, no, Adler has not shown what you mistakenly claim he has.

Comment moderation has been enabled, so I'll no longer be responding here to any more of your inanities.

Anonymous said...

Don Jindra: If a person had no knowledge of aerodynamics, he might assume the shape of an airplane cannot explain why it flies. That's how your argument strikes me.

And he'd be right. The shape of an airplane obvious does NOT explain why it flies or airplanes sitting on the ground would suddenly fly up in the air because they have exactly the same shape as airplanes that are flying. Or maybe you really do think that airplanes take off by morphing into a different shape, but here on planet Earth they need a very high velocity. That acceleration, that force is something quite separate from the shape. Airplanes also cannot fly in a vacuum. Air, and the way air behaves is also required. So yes, you need a lot more than the shape on airplane to explain how it can fly.

Of course you admit it yourself in the previous sentence about decoding neurons. A code does not decode itself. You need something OUTSIDE the code, some code sheet, you need a mapping from the thing to its coded representation. Trying to explain the brain by encoding the same thing in a computer does not explain anything. Translating a code into a different code is not decoding it. Nobody cares how many different ways you can encode, what you have been repeatedly asked for is how to DECODE it. That means getting to an actual mathematical point instead of some coded representation of a point. Of course, there is no such thing as pure physical point or physical triangularity, so wherever it came from, it must be something that isn't material, or there would have been nothing to get encoded in the first place. If you want people to stop accusing you of missing the point and using double standards, then you need to show how to materially DECODE it instead of just offering up alternative codes.

Jeremy Taylor said...

DJ,


You keep assuming that the concept of triangles, lines and points do not exist materially in our brain. That is a key point I deny. I see no reason to believe that concept exists anywhere but as a specific arrangement of neurons. That collection of neurons has weight and extension.

But you don't show how. The concept of a triangle lacks extension, location, etc. Nothing material has these properties. As far as we know, perfectly straight line and geometric points do not exist in matter. You don't show matter changes it basic properties, yet stays matter, so that these exist in matter. This part of your argument is missing, and pointing to computers or claiming it will all be worked out in the future is not good enough.

I believe the stumbling block is this: We do not currently know how to decode that arrangement of neurons. Because of that ignorance, you and others want to assume that the arrangement of neurons cannot explain what they produce. If a person had no knowledge of aerodynamics, he might assume the shape of an airplane cannot explain why it flies. That's how your argument strikes me.

Your analogy is not correct. In this case you are asserting that something that at no level, on the one hand, can contain this concepts, on the other hand does contain them. You need to show how what seems fundamentally non-material can in fact exist materially. It is rather like you have a wall in which you paint all the bricks red and then claim the surface as a whole will be green. To be taken seriously, you need to give some hint of how what seems fundamentally non-material is material.